Viva McQuarrie!

One can bemoan the lack of good Indian textbooks in almost any subject, but there is simply no getting away from it that for whatever reason, most- and I know there are exceptions- attempts by "Indian authors" to write a good textbook are severely compromised. One common tendency is to cut and paste- plagiarism, far from being punished, is actually rewarded by students preferring to buy a 'well plagiarised' book rather than the more expensive original! Then there are the books that are written with a captive audience in mind- either students who will be told to buy the book in question, or books that are written with a particular syllabus in mind!!

The more pernicious reason, I believe, is that pedagogy for its own sake is neither appreciated nor encouraged, and with the teaching versus research approach to academic practice that is endemic in our country, there is no incentive for the more original among our scholars to sit down and write a good textbook.

And for whatever reason, that problem is not quite so evident in the west where the number of good textbooks (written mainly by competent practitioners in the field!) is actually growing with the years. Having misspent a youth in studying chemistry, I can recall the pleasure with which my classmates and I devoured Morrison and Boyd, available in an Indian reprint for Rs 12. Thirty some years later, regrettably there is still no substitute for the reprint it seems...

Be that as it may, this post is about Donald McQuarrie's latest book, Mathematical Methods for Scientists and Engineers. Students of chemistry will be familiar with the name- McQuarrie is justly "famous for his clear writing, careful pedagogy, and wonderful problems and examples", with many books to his credit. These include a classic text on Statistical Mechanics, and a Physical Chemistry to rival- or complement- Atkins.

And Viva Books, New Delhi have done us all a service by bringing the book out in a reasonably priced reprint for the region. The book as well as McQuarrie's Statistical Mechanics can be ordered here, as can other books from Viva. Write in if you want a title not explicitly listed!