Greenhill, Basil (Jack) 1920-2003

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GREENHILL, Basil (Jack) 1920-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born February 26, 1920, in Weston-super-Mare, England; died April 8, 2003, in St. Dominick, Cornwall, England. Greenhill is best remembered as the director of the National Maritime Museum in London from 1967 to 1983. His love of ships began in the 1930s, at a time when there were still some commercial use of sailing ships in Cornwall, where he lived. In university he studied economics, politics, and philosophy at Bristol University, but his education was interrupted after two years by World War II. During the war, he served in the Royal Navy's Air Branch, achieving the rank of lieutenant. He then returned to university, completing a B.A. in 1946; much later in life, his alma mater awarded him a Ph.D. in 1981 based on the merits of his published work. Greenhill then went to work for the Diplomatic Service, and was assigned to posts in Pakistan, New York, Tokyo, Geneva, and Ottawa. He left diplomatic service in 1967, when he became the third director of the National Maritime Museum. As director, Greenhill worked to gain the museum international prominence as he expanded its focus from British history to include all types of maritime history from around the world. He lectured extensively on the subject of maritime history, writing and editing about three dozen books on the subject, many with his second wife, historian Ann Giffard. Among these works are The Merchant Sailing Ship (1970), Archaeology of the Boat (1976), The Life and Death of the Sailing Ship (1981), and The First Atlantic Liners: Seamanship in the Age of Paddle Wheel, Sail, and Screw (1997). His Westcountrymen in Prince Edward's Isle (1967) was later adapted as an award-winning film. Throughout his life, Greenhill was widely sought after for his expertise. He was trustee of the Royal Naval Museum during the 1970s and early 1980s, founded and chaired international conferences, and chaired the SS Great Britain project, as well as being chairman of maritime historical studies for Exeter University, beginning in 1985. His many post-retirement activities also included work as governor of Dulwich College and chair of Dulwich Picture Gallery. For his accomplishments, Greenhill receive many honors, including the 1980 Order of the White Rose from Finland, and honorary doctorates from Plymouth and Hull universities in 1996 and 2002 respectively. He was named companion of St. Michael and St. George in 1967 and of the Bath in 1981.



Writers Directory, 18th edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Independent (London, England), April 22, 2003, p. 18. Times (London, England), April 15, 2003, p. 34.