John Masson Smith, Jr.
Feb. 13, 1930 - July 24, 2019
John Masson Smith, Jr. was born in 1930 in Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard where he also met and married his wife, Grace. He served in the army for three years before obtaining his PhD in Near Eastern History at Columbia University. He and Grace then spent a year in Istanbul, where he directed the American Research Institute in Turkey. They then moved to Berkeley, where John spent over forty years as a professor in the University of California Berkeley Department of History.
John was a world-renowned scholar of Islamic coinage and of the history of the Mongol Empire. John's great achievement was enabling scholars and students to understand the history of steppe nomad empires not only from the vague statements of their sedentary enemies but especially from a quantitative analysis of material that had existed for centuries but which nobody had bothered to take seriously.
John also traveled all over the world, supported the opera and symphony, and was an equestrian. He was an able squash player and enjoyed sporting bow ties.
John is survived by his wife, Grace, his brother-in-law, George Martin, sister-in-law, Donna Martin, nieces and nephews.