In Memoriam

David Syrett (1939-2004)

Frank Warren | Mar 1, 2005

Distinguished Professor David Syrett of Queens College died on October 18, 2004. He was 65 years old. Syrett was part of a family of historians. His father was the noted historian Harold Syrett, and his brother John was also a historian. He is survived by his wife and colleague, Professor Elena Frangakis-Syrett; his sons, Peter, Matthew, and Christopher; his grandchildren, Hayley and Marco; and his brothers John and Matthew.

David Syrett did his undergraduate education at Columbia University, and his doctoral work at the University of London. He joined the Queens faculty in 1966 and was made Distinguished Professor in 2000. The author of ten books with four more in press and over eighty articles, Syrett was an expert on both the British Navy during the American Revolution and the naval warfare of World War II. His work on the Battle of the Atlantic was based on meticulous research of the 49,000 decrypted messages from German U-boats. In the process of his long scholarly career, he won the admiration of the leading scholars of military history in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. He was the recipient of many honors. He was especially proud of being a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the Council of the Navy Records in England.

Syrett was most at home in the archives. Every summer he buried himself in the British archives until he had mastered every detail of the Battle of the Atlantic. But he carried his scholarly accomplishments lightly and was always ready to aid his colleagues and fellow scholars. In Syrett's personal relations and in his teaching, he was frank, unceremonious, and outspoken. His students appreciated these qualities and filled his classes. His colleagues appreciated these same qualities which he often demonstrated with force and emotion. Even when they differed with his opinions, his colleagues appreciated his honesty and openness. They will remember him as distinguished scholar, a generous colleague, and a unique and authentic person.

— Frank Warren, Queens College

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