Skip to main content
Richard Wallis
In Memoriam

Richard Wallis

Professor Emeritus of Physics

UC Irvine

Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of California, Irvine, Richard F. Wallis, died on September 10, 2015, in Newport Beach, California. He was 91.

Dick Wallis was born May 14, 1924 in Washington, D.C.  He received the B.S. degree and the M.S. degree from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 1945 and 1948, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree from the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C. in 1952.

He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Fluid Dynamics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Maryland, College Park, after which he joined the Applied Physics Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University. In 1956 he moved to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, where he served for many years as Head of its Semiconductor Branch. In 1966 he was appointed to the faculty of the Department of Physics of the University of California, Irvine. With the exception of two years spent at the Naval Research Laboratory, in 1967-1969, he remained at UCI until his retirement in 1993. During this time he served two terms as the Chair of the Department of Physics.

A theorist, Dick’s earliest research activity was in chemical physics, and extended from his time at the George Washington University through his time at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. When he moved to the Naval Research Laboratory he began his investigations into magneto-optical phenomena and into surface physics, subjects that attracted his interest for much of the rest of his career.

In his work on magneto-optical phenomena Dick studied cyclotron resonance in semiconductors and semimetals, Faraday rotation and the Voigt effect in semiconductors, and free carrier and interband absorption by semiconductors, among many other topics.

His contributions to surface physics included studies of surface vibration modes of both crystals and elastic media, calculations of surface contributions to vibrational thermodynamic properties of solids, surface spin waves, pioneering investigations of surface polaritons, especially of surface magnetoplasmon polaritons, and pioneering calculations of the dispersion curves of surface phonons of simple metals.

In later years he turned to the study of nonlinear excitation in solids and the theory of solid state batteries.

A great Francophile, Dick had a close association with the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie (the University of Paris 6). He had several appointments there as a Professeur Invité, and taught courses on Solid State Theory.  He took an active role in the research activity of the Solid State Physics Laboratory, and co-authored many publications with its members.

Dick was a pedagogue. He was a fine teacher. He mentored many Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows.  He worked closely with each of them, many of whom went on to successful careers in academia and industry. His teaching was not confined to the classroom. In addition to his many publications he edited conference proceedings, and co-authored three monographs, two with Minko Balkansi (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris) and one with Alexei A. Maradudin (University of California, Irvine).

A great friend, a respected scholar and teacher, and a gentleman, Dick Wallis will be missed by all who know him.

Alexei A. Maradudin
Research Professor, Physics and Astronomy