Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Dave Halliday, 1916-2010

I cracked a bit of a gag with our rep from Wiley publishing today along the lines of "David Halliday is coming round later to highlight some of his books".  It's a gag because Dave Halliday's book Fundamentals Of Physics is probably one of the best selling and most comprehensive physics textbooks on the planet, and having it highlighted by the author is probably the best possible way of returning it to the publisher for a refund with no questions asked.

Turns out that it's not all that funny at the moment, because Dave Halliday, physics textbook god and all round nice bloke by all accounts, died a couple of weeks ago.

Aly from Wiley was nice enough to copy me in on an internal company memo.  Dave (as I'll refer to him, as I feel like that) was clearly a person who Wiley, as a company, had a great affection for.  It had less to do with his best selling textbook, and far more to do with the fact that he clearly had a great passion for physics and just as great a passion for communicating it.  I agree...Fundamentals was the one big purchase I made as an undergraduate, and also the one book I've made a point of keeping.  In fact, I've currently got two copies, because at some point the version with the lovely essay covering the Leidenfrost effect was cancelled, and a customer in the shop was good enough to make a point of donating one to me on hearing my laments at losing it.

Dave was a proper physicist in all respects, both the practical (he worked on radar systems in WWII, placing him alongside Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov), and the theoretical...his books were never afraid to nudge the side of science fiction that invariably becomes true given enough time.  By far my favourite suggestion in the book is that final degree exams should be replaced by a firewalking exercise, carrying a copy of Fundamentals under your arm, the idea being that if you believe in physics enough to walk across hot coals, and you believe enough to know just how much it could hurt if it goes wrong, then you deserve a degree.   Then again, I'm biased because I've not got a physics degree and I'd happily carry a copy of Dave's book over hot coals just on principle.

There's a lovely picture that sums up his attitude towards books, and hopefully I'll get permission to replicate it's him alongside a manuscript for a recent edition of Fundamentals.....and he's only slightly taller that the stack of A4.

If you want a comprehensive undergrad level book on physics then buy "Halliday, Resnick & Walker's Fundamentals Of Physics".  If you don't, then please remember David Halliday's name, he's inspired umpteen numbers of physicists who will change the entire universe in the long run.

1 comment:

  1. I wasn't aware halliday passed away recently.

    25 years ago at college we used halliday and Resnick's Fundamentals of Physics... still in use today.

    Thanks for the insight.