Prof David Walker Passes On

Obituary:  Professor ADM (David) Walker

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Professor ADM (David) Walker, one of our most distinguished scientists. He was Professor of Theoretical Physics in the University of Natal, Durban from 1972 until he retired in 2002. After retirement, he continued as an active researcher until the end. After undergoing surgery in June, he unfortunately never really recovered, and he died on 17 September, 2018, aged 80. He will be sorely missed by many.

David Walker studied at Rhodes University (up to his MSc) and Cambridge University (PhD, 1966). Between 1960 and 1972 he lectured at Rhodes, apart from his Cambridge years.

Walker was a world leading space physicist, with an A-rating from 1984 until his retirement in 2002. Apart from working on the theory of radio propagation in the ionosphere and exosphere, and hydromagnetic waves in space plasmas, he was also involved in the analysis of observations of the plasma behaviour. He co-initiated and was a PI on SHARE (Southern Hemisphere Auroral Radar Experiment) with its dual radars at SANAE and the British Antarctic base (Halley Bay). He was held in very high esteem in SuperDARN, the international network of dual auroral radar experiments.

Prof Walker was awarded the SAIP de Beers Gold Medal in 1998 and was a Fellow of SAIP. He was also elected a Fellow of IoP, the Royal Society of SA and UKZN, and was a Founder Member of ASSAf. He was very active in various national committees for space physics and Antarctic research, including the Advisory Committee of the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory, and was a SANSA Board member.

He published 85 research articles, and his work has been cited more than 3000 times. His last 3 papers appeared in 2016, and a couple are in preparation. He graduated 8 PhD and 10 MSc students, with one currently under examination. In addition, he also wrote 2 major research monographs: Plasma Waves in the Magnetosphere (348 pages), Springer, 1993, and Magnetohydrodynamic Waves in Geospace (550 pages), IoP Press, 2004. 

Dave Walker will be remembered for his friendliness, analytical, incisive mind, integrity and fairness. During his career, he filled numerous management roles at U Natal, including 16 years as HoD, Dean, 2 years as part-time Pro-Vice Principal (Information Systems) and short spells as Acting Vice-Principal, as well as serving on Council and on most Senate committees. After retiring, he held part-time posts as Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) and then as Director of Special Programmes in the new, merged UKZN Research Office, each for 2 years.

After completing his second monograph, Walker’s hobby of researching his 1820 Settler forebears led to a 492-page book, Pawns in a Larger Game: Life on the Eastern Cape Frontier, published in 2013.

Dave met Carol Glencross in Cambridge, and they married in 1967. She was very supportive of him throughout his career, and his family, 3 children and 6 grandchildren, played an important part in his life. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Carol and the family.


Manfred Hellberg - past-president SAIP (1997-1999) and Patrick Woudt - president SAIP (2017-2019) on behalf of the SAIP community

Copyright © 2015 South African Institute of Physics. All rights reserved.