John Phillips Britton


Died June 8, 2010

College: Silliman

Widow: Mrs. John P. Britton
PO Box 1010
Wilson, WY 83014-1010

Children: Samuel S.; John D.

John P. Britton, beloved father, grandfather, husband, brother and distinguished scholar of Babylonian astronomy and the history of science, died of cardiac arrest on June 8th. He was 71.

John was born in Hartford, CT. He attended St. Paul’s School and spent 10 years at Yale where he received a B.A. and a Ph.D. in the History of Science and Medicine for his work studying ancient mathematics and astronomy.

After Yale he moved to West Hartford, where he lived for more than 20 years with his first wife Kathryn Lines Britton, raising his family and working in a variety of roles in the investment management business. He joined his father’s brokerage firm, Conning & Company in 1966, became partner and later left to found CF Management, an asset management firm.

He played key roles in the startup of several reinsurance companies including a spell as CFO of one when it found itself in trouble. He was especially proud of his 1986 Trenwick Reinsurance Annual Report which remains a sterling model of what financial reporting should be in the most trying circumstances. Overall he was an indifferent businessman and chaffed under Hartford society and the Insurance business.

In his last two decades John returned to Babylonian Astronomy. He feared that as the old guard died off too much of their unfinished work was in danger of being lost and that the obligation fell to him to see to it that it was tidied up for a future generation of scholars. In 1995, he married Claudine Vincente Britton, and in 1997 they moved to Wilson, WY. John also had a lifelong passion for the outdoors. He enjoyed rock climbing, skiing, and hiking for most of his 71 years and introduced both his sons and grandchildren to the outdoor life.

A stutterer growing up (something he completely conquered), I think it forced him to learn to choose his words with great care at a very early age. John never gave voice to an incomplete thought and if he took the time to commit an idea to paper, well, then whatever he wanted to say was important.

There was no such thing as a “short” conversation with John. If a question was worth discussing, then it was worth discussing completely. Many times clarifying a simple point resulted in a 4-hour telephone call.

John loved his children. If you asked after them and didn’t know him then you might get the impression that he still held hope that they might one day straighten up and fly right. In fact, one is a partner at Goldman and the other a founding partner of a serious money management firm. He was absurdly proud of both, something I hope they both appreciate. There was nothing false in his modesty; it was part of who he was.

He is survived by his wife, Claudine Britton of Wilson, WY; his sons John Britton of New York, NY and Sam Britton of San Francisco, CA; his brother Peter Britton of South Hamilton, MA; and four grandchildren.

— A composite remembrance written by son, John Britton, and a business colleague, Andrew Riley