Dirk ter Haar

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Prof Dirk ter Haar FRSE FIP (Oosterwolde, 19 April 1919 – Drachten, 3 September 2002) was an Anglo-Dutch physicist.[1]



He was born at Oosterwolde in the Friesland district in the northern Netherlands on 19 April 1929.

Dirk ter Haar studied physics at St Andrews University in Scotland and Oxford University in England obtaining an MA degree before carrying out postgraduate studies at Leiden University.[2] In 1946 was a research fellow of Niels Bohr in Copenhagen at the Institute for Theoretical Physics (now the Niels Bohr Institute), and received his Ph.D. in Leiden in 1948 from Hendrik Kramers for a dissertation on the origin of the solar system.[3] From 1947 to 1950 he was a visiting associate professor of physics at Purdue University.

In 1950 he obtained a post as professor of physics at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where he later became a British citizen. In 1952 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Jack Allen, David Jack, Daniel Edwin Rutherford and Edward Thomas Copson.[4]

He became a Fellow of Magdalen College and reader in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford.[1]

In 1966 Ter Haar became a corresponding member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[5]

Many prominent scientists studied under ter Haar, including Anthony Leggett, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2003 and Deng Jiaxian, one of the leading scientists and founders of Chinese nuclear weapons programs.

Dirk also was able to read Russian, and played a prominent role in disseminating the works of Soviet physicists such as Landau and Kapitsa to the western world.[1] He also translated the classic monograph Quantum Mechanics by Alexander Davydov into English.

He died at Drachten in the northern Netherlands on 3 September 2002.


In 1949 Dirk ter Haar married Christine Janet Lound and together they had two sons and a daughter. His daughter, Gail ter Haar, became a reader in physics as well, specializing in therapeutic ultrasound.[6]


He wrote numerous books on physics, such as Elements of Statistical Mechanics (1954). In addition, he wrote a book on Kramers and was a founding editor for Physics Letters (1962) (later Physics Letters A) and Physics Reports (1971).[1] In 1984 the book Essays in Theoretical Physics in honour of Dirk ter Haar was published in honour of his work in statistical physics and quantum mechanics.

  • D. ter Haar, Elements of Statistical Mechanics. London: Constable (1954). 2ed (1966) New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston; 3ed (1995) Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann
  • D. ter Haar and H.N.S. Wergeland, Elements of Thermodynamics, Addison-Wesley, 1966[7]
  • D. ter Haar, Elements of Hamiltonian Mechanics, Pergamon Press, Oxford.
  • D. ter Haar, The Old Quantum Theory, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1967.
  • D. ter Haar, "On the Origin of the Solar System", Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Vol.5, Oxford, 1967:267-278, doi:10.1146/annurev.aa.05.090167.001411.
  • D. ter Haar, Lectures on Selected Topics in Statistical Mechanics, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1977.
  • D. ter Haar, Master of Modern Physics. The Scientific Contributions of H. A. Kramers, Princeton University Press, 1998.


  1. ^ a b c d Lamb, Frederick K.; Leggett, Anthony J.; Pethick, Christopher J. (February 2004). "Obituary: Dirk ter Haar". Physics Today. 57 (2): 79–80. Bibcode:2004PhT....57b..79L. doi:10.1063/1.1688082.
  2. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  3. ^ Dirk ter Haar (1948). "Studies on the origin of the solar system" (PDF).
  4. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  5. ^ N.G.van Kampen (2004). "Levensbericht (biography): Dirk ter Haar (1919 - 2002)" (PDF). Levensberichten en herdenkingen (in Dutch). Amsterdam: Huygens Institute - Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). pp. 52–55. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Professor Gail ter Haar". The Institute of Cancer Research, London. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  7. ^ D. ter Haar; H.N.S. Wergeland (1966). Elements of Thermodynamics. Addison-Wesley. p. 160. ISBN 0-2010-7460-5.

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