HENNING, Walter Bruno. Ragnit/Ostpreussen (now Neman in Russia) 26.8.1908 — Berkeley, Calif. 8.1.1967. German Iranian Scholar in the U.K. and U.S.A. Professor in London and Berkeley. Son of the local land registry director. Grew up in Köslin, Pomerania (now Koszalin in Poland), as child often ill. Originally studied mathematics, but its history made him interested in the Near East. Then studies of Iranian and Arabic at Göttingen (under Andreas), for a while at Leiden as Assistant of the Concordance of Islamic traditions. Ph.D. 1931 Göttingen. Engaged to marry with a jew, he escaped the Nazi regime in 1936 to U.K., in 1936-48 Parsee Community Lecturer in Iranian Studies at S.O.A.S. in London (1939 Senior Lecturer), from 1947 Reader. In 1940-41 interned on the Isle of Man, then taught in Cambridge, where S.O.A.S. was relocated. In 1946 Visiting Professor of Sanskrit and Iranian at Columbia University in New York, in 1950 government guest in Iran doing epigraphic field-work. In 1948-61 Professor of Central Asian Studies at S.O.A.S., in 1958-61 also Head of Near and Middle East Department. In 1961-67 Professor of Iranian Studies at University of California in Berkeley. Died after an accidence. In 1937 married Maria, the sister of his friend, the Coptic scholar H. J. Polotsky, one daughter Anne.
WBH was a skilled and many-sided Iranian scholar, whose interests extended from Central Asian manuscripts (Sogdian, Middle Persian, especially Manichaean) to Pahlavi and Aramaic epigraphy and numismatics, from Zoroaster to Khwarezmian and New Persian dialects. In Khwarezmian philology he did pioneer work, as also on Bactrian inscriptions (he also gave the name ‘Bactrian’ for the language). Occasionally he even dealt with Turkic and Chinese, but his main field was the Middle Iranian period and main method philology. As a critical scholar he never accepted the more daring theories of his teacher Andreas. His sharp criticism brought him enemies. Famous is his rejection of Nyberg’s and Herzfeld’s speculative theories about Zoroaster, first given as lectures at Oxford in 1949. Among his students were Mary Boyce, Ilya Gershevitch, D. N. Mackenzie, M. Schwartz and E. Yarshater.
Publications: Diss. Das Verbum des Mittelpersischen der Turfanfragmente. Publ. in ZII 9, 1933, 158-253.
– Edited: “Mitteliranische Manichaica aus Chinesisch-Turkestan, aus dem Nachlass des Andreas”, 1-3. SBeAW 1932-34; Ein manichäisches Bet- und Beichtbuch. 143 p. ABeAW 1936:10 (1937, in Sogdian).
– Sogdica. 67 p. James G. Forlong Fund 21. L. 1940 (small fragments edited).
– Bibliography of Important Studies in Old Iranian Subjects. 1950.
– Zoroaster – Politician or Witch-Doctor? 51 p. Ratanbal Katrak Lectures 1949. L. 1951
– From 1954 general editor of the Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum, himself contributed: The Inscription of Sar Mašhad. C.I.I. III/2, Portfolio 1. 1955; The Inscription of Naqš-i Rustam. C.I.I. 2. 1957; Minor Inscriptions of Kartir. C.I.I. 2. 1963.
– “Mitteliranisch”, HdO 1:1:1. Iranistik. Ld. 1958, 20-129.
– A great number of often important articles and reviews in BSOAS, JRAS, Asia Major, etc.; Selected Papers. 1-2. Acta Ir. 14-15. Leiden 1977.
Sources: *M. Boyce, BSOAS 30, 1967, 781-785; W. Eilers, ZDMG 118, 1968, 213-217; M. Schwarz, IIJ 10:4, 1968, 308-313; W. Sundermann, Encyclop. Iranica 12:2, 2003, 188-198; *W.B.H. Memorial Vol. L. 1970; Wikipedia with photo; photo also in TITUS Galeria.
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