Post by Lynn McGuire Post by Tony Nance Post by Lynn McGuire
Am I the only person noticing that the price of used dead tree books
For a long time "The Lydian Baker", an historical mystery by David Wishart, was listed on Amazon for $306. It was a not terribly well made mass market paperback.
I had to wait until British libraries started destocking it, got a worn but good hardback for $20, mostly shipping.
My second year stat mech text, which I bought for $7.30 Canadian, sold on EBay for $500. When I mentioned on this group that "Rings and Radicals", by Nathan Divinsky was selling for $75 and I had paid 98 cents, someone on this group offered to buy it at $100. Clearly I should have bought ten copies when I had the chance.
You and I talked about the Divinsky book here many years ago, though I wasn't the one who offered anything for it. I'm still looking for a reasonably priced copy, including checking again just a couple weeks ago. IIRC, you mentioned it was a pretty standardly required text where you were a student, which surprised the heck out of me. (Again, IIRC)
In the 1950s and 60s the U of T math department went on quite a spree of book publishing, a uniform set of advanced mathematics books in black covers. Titles I can recall, or think I can recall, are "The Variational Principles of Mechanics" by Cornelius Lanczos, which was a text for third year classical mechanics (though mainly we used Goldstein). "Partial Differential Equations" by a very young G. F. D. Duff, and some book by Synge, I think "Tensor Calculus" by Synge and Schild, though it might have been a Synge book on GR. (IIRC Synge was at U of T for some time, and approached Lanczos about writing for the series). R&R was also in the series.
By the 70s, though, many copies of these books had been sitting in warehouses for a decade or more, and U of T decided to sell them all for 98 cents each.
R&R was recommended, though not required, for the third year algebra course. But as I was in physics, and the algebra prof was a certifiable sociopath (though not as bad as the madman who taught complex analysis, or the burnt-out case who taught real analysis, but I had to take those) so I bought one of the texts thinking (insanely) that I might sit in.
Ah the days of ambition.
Sounds almost as much fun as Dr. Hartfiel at TAMU in the late 1970s who
would get excited during Calculus I, Calculus III, or Differential
Equations and lapse into German. At one point, he rambled on for five
minutes before one of us 300 poor souls had the guts to interrupt him.
We would egg on Jaime who sat on the front row who would yell "Professor
! Professor ! Professor !". He always turned around and said "Ja ?".
"You were talking in German again." "Oh, Ok." There was no repeat of
that last five minutes in English.
Oh Rooney wasn't that kind of problem. He was an admirably clear if concise lecturer. Only once in the entire year did he stop to refer to his notes.
The problem was he loved the subject. He took in as a fourth year course at Caltech in 1948, and had
been teaching it as a third year course at U of T for 25 years. Adding a bit each year (a temptation I also fell to when teaching atmospheric science, but I took something out when I put something in). The last problem set I completed took 25 hours and was 37 pages long. These were weekly. At that point I stopped handing them in.
I took the course with a smart guy who'd had a nervous breakdown taking it the year before. He did very well the second time and accepted the job of marker for the course the next year. And had a nervous breakdown. Rooney also flushed one of the most dedicated and talented math students out of the program altogether. At least it provided criminology with someone who actually understood statistics. Two or three other noted students (out of a class of 15 or so) did not return the next year though I don't know for sure why.
He did revel in his reputation as being a tough prof. It had been said that nobody should be allowed to get a U of T math degree without a course from Rooney. But he'd gone well past that by this time.
One hilarious thing that was not his fault. The standard notation for a complex number is z, but if two complex variables are needed, he'd write a squiggle for the second. I literally could not write the squiggle, so I'd substitute eta for it. But it turned out that when he needed a third variable he'd use eta. So I substituted some other Greek letter for that. And so on. My notes were useless. Fortunately a fellow student found the text he had used in 1948 which covered about 2/3 of the course material.
My parallel to Hartfiel would be Prof Wang. He never spoke Chinese in class, but it's not clear he spoke English either. Fortunately, for the first course I took with him he provided excellent lecture notes he'd worked on the previous summer. Unfortunately, I had to take two more courses from him. Nice guy but unworldly, he cost me quite a bit of money.
Post by Lynn McGuire
Dr. Hartfiel also wore the same dark blue suit every week and got it
cleaned on the weekends. By Friday, his dark blue trousers were solid
white around the pockets with chalk dust.
Dr Greub was an excellent teacher (and researcher), full of enthusiasm and also very clear. He had a thick German accent but was perfectly understandable. Somehow his suit was always in the same dusty and disheveled state. I wondered how he maintained it. I came to his office with some little problem and he seized on it. I spent virtually the entire afternoon there as he dragged in other profs into considering the implications of whatever I had noticed, or what he thought I had noticed. I sat there and tried to look like I had the faintest idea what was going on. A good guy.