You may have read that Peter David, The Economist's Washington bureau chief and author of the paper's Lexington column, died in a car crash on Thursday night.
Peter was a superb journalist, one of the best The Economist ever hired. His range was stunning. He was recruited in 1984 to write science articles (he was working for Nature at the time), and did that with distinction. Later he became the paper's main authority on the Middle East. He wrote the Bagehot column on British politics. He ran the business sections of the magazine; then, as foreign editor, he ran the international sections. In many of these jobs he was, in The Economist's tradition, both editorial manager and senior writer. In both roles he was respected for his knowledge. As a boss he was known for his kindness and generosity, as a writer for his wit, even-handedness and unaffected elegance.
He was a brilliant man--but also wise, a rare combination. In argument, he was razor sharp, yet gentle. Gentleness was his most salient trait. He had no taste for stamping on opponents he had defeated. He would sometimes win arguments almost imperceptibly, guiding his challenger to the right answer. He took his work most seriously, worried about it more than he let on, and thought it mattered to be right, yet always took himself unseriously. He was funny, specializing in jokes at his own expense. The result of these perfectly balanced contrasts was a completely irresistible man.