Review of “An Introduction to Classical Electrodynamics”
Before responding to the publisher’s questionnaire let me say that I think this book is brilliant. First, and most obvious, is how the book develops electrodynamics by following its historical development in a judicious yet precise way. This is the best treatment of the historical development of electricity, magnetism and electrodynamics I have ever seen. The breadth of the authors’ knowledge, together with their ability to summarize historical results in exceptionally clear terms, is wonderful. Developing electromagnetism historically makes many concepts easier to understand (e.g. the concepts of electric and magnetic field lines) and explains the origin of some of the puzzling names and terms.
A second way in which this book is new is the detailed way in which it uses the equations and concepts of fluid statics and dynamics to understand the equations and concepts of electrostatics and electrodynamics, and vice versa.
A third way in which this book is exceptional is the way it gets across the beauty of electromagnetism and, more generally, the beauty of physics. This important aspect of electromagnetism is often sacrificed to teaching ever more techniques for solving problems. It’s a great pleasure to see a text that communicates the deep beauty and unity of Nature behind what we do, which is what drew many of us into Physics in the first place.
A fourth way in which this book is brilliant is the way in which it developments the subject – the pedagogical approach is totally unique and rather exciting. The order of presentation is excellent, and many of the derivations are new and insightful. The prose explanations of the equations are outstanding as they pinpoint the key concepts involved in each.
A fifth way in which this book is exceptional is the way it includes current day applications in the text and in so many of the problems and examples.
A sixth way in which this book is exceptional is the way it incorporates world history into the development of electrodynamics. The history is not superficial, but rather has substance and is important in its own right. The way the book discusses philosophical issues is also excellent, e.g. the philosophy behind the concepts of the electric and magnetic fields.
I could continue but my list would become too long. Bottom Line: This is simply an excellent book. In addition to the above points, the book is beautifully written – the prose is easy to read and just flows. The authors are excellent writers. In addition, the problems are well worded and stand very little chance of being misunderstood by students.
I would also like to say that I have taught electromagnetism at this level off and on for forty years. Over this time I have tried different ways of presenting the subject and many different examples to illustrate the material being taught. Many of the derivations and examples used in this book are ones that I also came to as being most effective. So, in this sense, I have “experimentally verified” that these approaches and problems work … at least they are ones my students have understood.
Finally, I am impressed that the authors could write a physics book without using equation numbers! I didn’t miss them as the way the authors reference previous results works fine.
By an anonymous reviewer who is a senior professor at a major college or university.