Today, John Eric Holmes would have celebrated his 86th birthday.
Though both a doctor of neurology and a science fiction author, what Holmes is best known for is the “Holmes Basic” or Bluebook edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
Holmes’ son was a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, but the good doctor found the way the rules were written in the original 3 volumes + 4 supplements to be poorly presented, difficult to understand and ineffective as a tool to teach players who were new to the game.
Holmes offered his services to Gary Gygax to create a streamlined ruleset that combined the mechanical elements present in OD&D in a single document with the express purpose of introducing new players to the game. Though long out of print and somewhat difficult to find these days, Holmes’ edition was the launching point of one of the longest running and most commercially successful lines of Dungeons & Dragons. Dreamscape Design has lovingly crafted the only Holmes-clone, Blueholme, which I strongly recommend checking out; Holmes’ D&D is one of the few “Basic” games that retains the truly Vancian magic mechanics that many of us just house-rule in anyway.
In addition to his work on D&D, Holmes wrote a number of books, including an unauthorized sequel series to ER Burroughs’ Pellucidar books, a Buck Rogers novel, and some of his own original fantasy.
If you want to know more about the man and his work, I suggest you check out Zenopus Archives, one of the largest sites online devoted entirely to preserving the legacy of J.E. Holmes.