John Graham Pollard, 1929-2007

January 9, 2008

As an academic he enjoyed international renown in his field, and within the University of Cambridge he was known as a popular and dedicated college man.

Graham Pollard, who has died aged 77, had a long and distinguished career at the university, where he developed a reputation as a world authority on Renaissance medals.

His work at the university's Fitzwilliam Museum spanned five decades, from the 1940s to the 1980s, and he was deputy director of the museum for 19 years, from 1969 to 1988.

Among the other positions he held were assistant keeper of coins, from 1954 to 1966, and keeper of the coins from 1966 to 1988. The latter role involved supervising the Fitzwilliam's department of coins and medals, which is an international centre for research and teaching in numismatics, the study of currency and its history.

Mr Pollard was an academic of international renown, with particular expertise in the field of Renaissance medals ­ the subject of his two-volume study, which the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC will publish soon. Described as "breaking new ground in the scholarly literature of the field", the work documents the gallery's collection of German medals from the 16th century, French baroque medals and smaller groups of medals from England and the Netherlands.

The two books were compiled over a period of 20 years and are the first comprehensive catalogue of the gallery's collection of Renaissance-era medals. The detail covered in Mr Pollard's work is unprecedented, including technical information such as the alloy composition of each medal.

Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art, said Mr Pollard's books would "help scholars worldwide achieve a better scientific and cultural understanding of these important works of art, offering a better sense of what medals symbolised for artists and patrons in Europe".

Mr Pollard was also dedicated to Cambridge college life. He was a fellow of Wolfson College from 1967 and Wolfson's librarian from 1980 to 1995. He served on the college's council from 1982 to 1986 and again from 1988 to 1992.

Gordon Johnson, president of Wolfson, said: "Graham was a valued and active member of the college beyond retirement. He was particularly helpful in the design of the college library and was always an agreeable companion at lunch or dinner. In recent years, he was the genial Cambridge secretary of the Ad Eundem dining club." Mr Pollard, who was born on Christmas Day, 1929, died on December 17, just three weeks after the death of his wife Maria, following a long period of ill health.

He is survived by their only son, Lawrence Pollard.

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