Springfield, Ohio – Best-selling author Dan Fleisch, Wittenberg associate professor of physics, is known for doing anything necessary to help his students succeed. This last Christmas, however, Fleisch took his commitment a step further – a huge step further, traveling nearly 700 miles to ensure that Michel Cuhaci of Ottawa, Canada, had the right gift for his nephew under the tree.
The spur-of-the-moment trek began after Fleisch, author of the highly popular A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations, now in its fifth printing and a sales phenomenon on amazon.com, happened to be looking at the most recent reviews of the book on amazon.com when he noticed a new, but negative comment from Cuhaci, who had ordered the book for his nephew, a first-year engineering student.
Cuhaci gave the book only one star, a sharp contrast to the overwhelmingly positive four- and five-star reviews the book has traditionally received since being published in 2008. In his review, Cuhaci cited that the book he received was missing pages and that a chapter appeared to be reprinted twice.
Fleisch immediately responded saying he would send him a new copy to replace what obviously was a printing error. Unfortunately, it was Christmas Eve, and all avenues Fleisch considered and researched to deliver the book would not work at this late hour. So, Fleisch took the only possible path and boarded a plane bound for Canada despite the poor weather and that fact that it was now 6 a.m. Christmas Day.
"I'm sitting there. The plane is fairly empty, and I think, 'Am I nuts?'" Fleisch said in an article about the trip that appeared in theSpringfield News-Sun on Feb. 8.
Ninety minutes later, the plane landed in Ottawa, and Fleisch found himself in a rental car driving to the Cuhaci's home. With speech rehearsed, he neared the family's front door and knocked.
Cuhaci's wife answered and said, "There's someone with a beard at the door,'" Cuhaci recalled in the News-Sun article.
"I opened the door and there's this guy in front of me saying, ‘Which book would you like, hardcover or soft?'" Cuhaci continued."I was surprised and shocked. I was trying to understand what was happening."
Fleisch acknowledged that he was the author and, not wanting to take up any more of the family's holiday time, simply walked away.
Still confused and trying to comprehend, Cuhaci and his wife conducted an Internet search to discover if Fleisch truly was the author. A quick look at Wittenberg's Web site confirmed it.
"To think, there he was, and I didn't even ask him to sign it," Cuhaci said in the article. "I didn't even invite him in for coffee."
Now back at the airport, Fleisch prepared to board the plane again for the short flight home, but instead spent hours waiting due to repercussions from weather-related issues. Eleven hours later, Fleisch was finally back in his Springfield home, but the story has since traveled even more than 700 miles.
National Public Radio picked up the story first, which led to a plethora of phone calls to Fleisch's faculty office from other news outlets, including SkyNews in London, The Guardian and the London Daily Telegraph. Fleisch was also interviewed by the Canadian Broadcast Company for its show "As It Happens," which is heard throughout Canada and by more than 100 NPR stations in the United States. Several Canadian newspapers also picked up the story, as have numerous Web sites, such as Fark.com.
On Thursday, Fleisch heard from a reporter in Taiwan, and he has since been asked to contribute to the "Explorations in Science" Web site of Professor Michio Kaku, a world-renowned physicist and best-selling author. "The Book Depository" in the United Kingdom has also asked Fleisch to provide a list of 10 books that have been important to him.
"It's been an interesting few days - very gratifying to hear such kind words from so many people," Fleisch said.
Intrigued by the power of James Clerk Maxwell and his equations, which are the most influential equations, not just in electromagnetics but in all of science, Fleisch was inspired to write A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations, which has surpassed all sales expectations on amazon.com. The book is now the No. 1 best seller of all books in mathematical physics, and No. 4 of all the physics books sold.
Filled with student-friendly features, including podcasts and interactive solutions on the book's accompanying Web site and published by Cambridge University Press, the book is a dream-come-true for Fleisch.
"I'm hearing from students all over the world who are using the book and who seem very appreciative of the pedagogical features," Fleisch said. "The response since publication has been overwhelming."
Recipient of Wittenberg's top faculty prize, the Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award, Fleisch is an expert in the areas of radar cross-section measurement, radar system analysis, and ground-penetrating radar. A member of the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers and the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers. Fleisch received his B.S. in physics from Georgetown University and his M.S. and Ph.D. in space physics and astronomy from Rice University. He joined the Wittenberg faculty in 1998.