Reiner, Erica 1924-2005

views updated

REINER, Erica 1924-2005


Born 1924, in Budapest, Hungary; died of lung cancer, December 31, 2005, in Chicago, IL. Education: University of Budapest, degree in linguistics, 1948; École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, France, diploma, 1951; University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1955. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, antiques.


Linguist, educator and writer. University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, from research assistant to research associate, 1952-56, from assistant professor to professor, 1956-73, John A. Wilson Professor of Assyriol, beginning 1973, John A. Wilson distinguished service professor emerita, 1983-2005.


American Oriental Society, Linguistic Society of America, American Philosophical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (fellow).


Guggenheim fellow, 1974; honorary doctorates from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Leiden.


A Linguistic Analysis of Akkadian, Mouton (The Hague, Netherlands), 1966.

Surpu: A Collection of Sumerian and Akkadian Incantations. Biblio Verlag (Osnabrück, Germany), 1970.

(Editor, with Johannes Renger) Essays on Mesopotamian Civilization: Selected Papers of A. Leo Oppenheim, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1974.

(Editor, with K. Bittel and Ph.H.J. Houwink ten Cate) Anatolian Studies Presented to Hans Gustav Güterbock on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, Nederlands Historisch-Archaelogisch Institute in het Nabije Oosten (Istanbul, Turkey), 1974.

(With David Pingree) Babylonian Planetary Omens, four volumes, Undena Publications (Malibu, CA), 1975–2005.

(With David Pingree) Enuma Anu Enlil. Tablet 63: The Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa, Undena Publications (Malibu, CA), 1975.

(With David Pingree) Enuma Anu Enlil. Tables 50-51, Undena Publications (Malibu, CA), 1981.

Your Thwarts in Pieces, Your Mooring Rope Cut: Poetry from Babylonia and Assyria (essays), Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI), 1985.

(Editor) Piotr Michalowski, Letters from Early Mesopotamia, Scholars Press (Atlanta, GA), 1993.

Astral Magic in Babylonia, American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1995.

An Adventure of Great Dimension: The Launching of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Contributor to books, including Handbuch der Orientalistik, Brill (Leiden, Germany), 1969; and Current Trends in Linguistics, Mouton (The Hague, Switzerland), 1969. Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, University of Chicago, associate editor, 1957-62, editor, beginning 1962, and editor-in-charge, 1973-96.


Erica Reiner was an authority on ancient languages and a renowned Assyrian scholar. Also an author and editor, she wrote books such as Astral Magic in Babylonia, which focuses on magical rites in ancient Mesopotamia and traces the influence of Greek medicine and science on these rites. "One can but admire the comprehensive trawl of the cuneiform sources and of the significant secondary literature," wrote W.G. Lambert in a review of Astral Magic in Babylonia for the Journal of the American Oriental Society. Reiner collaborated with David Pingree to write the four-part Babylonian Planetary Omens, which is a comprehensive translation of all known celestial omen writings in ancient Babylon. In a review of part three of the series, Ulla Koch Westenholz noted in another issue of the Journal of the American Oriental Society that "we owe the authors a debt of gratitude for making these difficult texts … easily accessible and intelligible."

Reiner's last book before her death from lung cancer is An Adventure of Great Dimension: The Launching of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary. Reiner worked for forty-four years on the dictionary of the ancient Assyrian language, which is often referred to as Akkadian. In an obituary in a University of Chicago News Office release, Gil Stein, director of the university's Oriental Institute, noted: "It is difficult to overstate the significance of Erica Reiner's contributions to the understanding of the ancient Near East. The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary serves as the basic reference work for the Akkadian language, the predominant tongue of Mesopotamia for 2500 years."



Journal of the American Oriental Society, January, 1999, W.G. Lambert, review of Astral Magic in Babylonia, p. 140; April-June, 2000, Ulla Koch Westenholz, review of part three of the Babylonian Planetary Omens, p. 256.

Reference & Research Book News, review of part four of Babylonian Planetary Omens.



Chicago Tribune, January 24, 2006, Lorene Yue, "U. of C. Professor Was Authority on Ancient Languages."

New York Times, January 22, 2006), Wolfgang Saxon, "Erica Reiner Is Dead at 81; Renowned Assyrian Scholar."

ONLINE, (January 6, 2006), "Reiner Was Driving Force for Chicago Assyrian Dictionary."

University of Chicago News Office Web site, (January 3, 2006).*