Ralph Russell (1918-2008) has been widely recognized as the greatest western scholar of Urdu. Khushwant Singh described him as 'much the most revered name of interpreters of Ghalib's life and works'. For over thirty years he headed the Urdu department at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and throughout his life regularly spent time in both India and Pakistan, writing, working with fellow scholars and as a popular lecturer. After his retirement he pioneered the teaching of Urdu to English speakers in communities across the UK, to encourage greater mutual understanding between people of different backgrounds. His unusual skill as a translator and his insightful writing have opened up an appreciation of Urdu literature to a wide range of readers.