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Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Professor Gareth JonesGareth Jones, who died on 2 April at the age of 85, was one of the foremost legal academics of his generation. His wide range of interests included legal history, contract, property and trusts. On the first he wrote his History of the Law of Charity 1532-1827 in 1969 and on the second, with William Goodhart, Specific Performance in 1986. But it is for The Law of Restitution, which he wrote in 1966 with Robert Goff, that his name is particularly well known. It was this book which established restitution in English law as a distinct topic. Now in its eighth edition (as The Law of Unjust Enrichment) it was quickly accepted as the definitive text, and has remained so.

After studying law at University College London, Cambridge and (as Choate Fellow) at Harvard, and then teaching law at Oxford and at King’s College London, Gareth came to Cambridge as a junior teaching Fellow at Trinity in 1961. He then remained in Cambridge for the rest of his career, which was long and exceptionally active. In Trinity he became a central figure, serving as Senior Tutor and later as Vice-Master. In the Law Faculty, he was omnipresent, serving (among a range of other roles) as Chairman from 1979 to 1981, and teaching for many decades his much-respected LLM course on restitution. Outside the Faculty he served, with efficiency and diligence, on a wide range of important but time-consuming University bodies – including the Council of the Senate and the General Board, and the Fitzwilliam Syndicate, which he chaired for 12 years. All this he combined with extensive travel: in particular, a long series of visiting professorships in the USA. And he still found time for writing and research – so building up a body of scholarship which was recognised by the award of a number of formal distinctions: including the titles of QC, LLD, FBA and Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn; and in Cambridge, the Downing Chair of the Laws of England, which he held from 1975 until he retired in 1998.

Gareth was a convivial man with an engagingly impish sense of humour. He was also known for his personal kindness and for the open-hearted hospitality offered at their home, together with his wife Vivienne. Her death in 2004 was a great grief to him, and to their many friends. Some years later he found personal happiness again with Dilys Brewer, who survives him.

Further details of his life and work can be found in the speech he gave at Trinity College on his 80th birthday. 

Professor Jones was interviewed by Mrs Lesley Dingle prior to his death, and an entry in the Eminent Scholars Archive is forthcoming.