E[dward] Brabrook, Obituary of Alfred Lionel Lewis

Man, 20, 188–189 (December 1920)


A. L. Lewis.   By Sir E. Brabrook.

Mr. Alfred Lionel Lewis was the son of a well-known instructor in the art of handwriting, and was himself a chartered accountant of distinction. He joined the Anthropological Society of London in 1866, and specialised in the study of stone monuments. He interested himself also in many subjects submitted to the Society and frequently joined in its discussions. He was one of an independent Committee appointed in 1868 to report on the condition of the Society. He attended several of the international congresses of prehistoric archaeology, from that of Norwich in 1868 where he read a paper on the Sarsden Stones of Berkshire, in which he took up the position that stone circles were primarily places of worship and that their use as places of sepulture was subsidiary. He visited Locmariaker and Gavr’ Inis, and reported his observations to the Society. In 1869 he contributed to the British Association, at its Exeter meeting, a paper on the builders and the purposes of megalithic monuments, which he revised and published in the Journal of Anthropology.

He was elected a member of the Council of the Society in 1869, and appointed a delegate to the Liverpool meeting of the British Association, before which he read a paper on the builders of megalithic monuments in Britain. He became a member of {189} the Association in the same year, and was in due course elected on its General Committee. He thus lived to see the jubilee year of his membership of that body. He served for many years on the Corresponding Societies Committee and on various research committees, and contributed to the Association many papers on the subjects which he had made especially his own. Upon the formation of the Anthropological Institute be continued his valuable services. Two papers by him were read in its first year, and at the Annual Meeting he was re-elected on the Council.

It will be remembered that all went well until the beginning of 1873, when a number of Fellows of the Institute formed the London Anthropological Society. Mr. Lewis became the Honorary Secretary of the new body, and for a time transferred to it his energies and his original contributions, which will be found in Anthropologia, of which one volume only was published. Photo of Alfred Lionel Lewis The supplement to that volume records the final proceedings of that Society, which died out at the end of 1875. Mr. Lewis had, however, attended and spoken “as a visitor” at meetings of the Institute in January and February, 1874. On his desiring to rejoin the Institute, he was welcomed back, and was again elected a member of the Council in 1876. From that time to the end of his life his interest in the work of the Institute and his contributions to its proceedings were continued with unabated zeal. In 1878 he called attention to the evils arising from the use of historical national names as scientific terms.

In 1886 he was elected treasurer of the Institute, and in that capacity administered its finances for 17 years with conspicuous success. In the years 1905 to 1907 he was elected Vice-President. On several occasions he served as the representative of the Institute at the congresses of the Prehistoric Society of France, and his acquaintance with the stone monuments of France was almost as intimate as his knowledge of the stone monuments of this country. He made many friends among the French anthropologists, who will greatly regret him. His papers, which were numerous, were generally illustrated by sketches drawn from his own accurate measurements; and he made skilful models of many of the stone monuments he described. In recent years he lived at Wallington, where he delivered popular lectures on the subject with which he was so intimately conversant. He died there on October 22, 1920, aged 78, and the Institute was represented at his funeral on the 28th of that month. His death is a heavy loss to the Institute; to myself it is the loss of an old friend whose goodness of heart, independence of judgment, kindliness and loyalty, earned my admiration and esteem.