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Possibly Useful Books for Classical Electromagnetism

Kevin Schmidt
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ

Here is a set of books that I find to be useful references. Below I give the edition that I own and some comments. Jackson gives the latest available edition of most of these in his bibliography. I have also noted the system of units used. Like Jackson, Smythe changed units between editions (the first edition used three sets - electrostatic, electromagnetic and gaussian and the later editions used SI!). Note that many of these are out of print and can only be bought used if at all. The library has copies of all of them.

1 Graduate Level Classical Electromagnetism

  1. Panofsky and Phillips[1]

    Units: SI

    This is an excellent text. It is shorter than Jackson with a somewhat different emphasis. I recommend this book for supplementary reading if you have trouble understanding Jackson.

  2. Stratton[2]

    Units: SI

    This was one of the standard texts along with Smythe before Panofsky and Phillips and later Jackson became standards. This covers basically the material in the first 10 chapters of Jackson, but is weak on charged particle dynamics and radiation. Stratton was one of the developers of the vector Kirchoff approximation which is covered very well here.

  3. Born and Wolf[3]

    Units: Gaussian

    This is an optics text that is dated for optics use, but has excellent coverage of things like Stokes parameters, shadow formation, plane wave propagation through layered media etc.

  4. Landau and Lifshitz[4,5]

    Units: Gaussian

    Lifshitz writes very tersely (my understanding is that Landau did not actually write a word of these books, but discussed the writing with Lifshitz) which is wonderful if you already know the material or learn by working most of the details out on your own. They are very carefully done with some (again very tersely) worked examples. They are among my favorites, but would be impossible to use as a text for a class.

  5. Maxwell[6]

    Units: Electrostatic and Electromagnetic

    These are very interesting historically and easy to read except for the outdated notation. Everything is written in components, I assume because of difficulty typesetting subscripts. Each component is simply given a different letter. It takes a little care to understand what is going on. Some of Jackson's problems are taken straight out of Maxwell's worked examples. Note that Maxwell does not cover radiation at all. He doesn't even indicate that a time varying current radiates.

  6. Smythe[7]

    Units: SI

    The winner and still champion on the number of problems given (over 700 are listed in the second edition and more were added for the third.) Does only macroscopic electromagnetism, with almost no coverage of charged particle dynamics nor does it cover things like frequency dependence of the dielectric function. It has a good chapter on wave guides, and a comprehensive treatment of electrostatics. Smythe strangely avoids using the magnetic scalar potential for magnetostatic problems.

  7. Rohrlich[8]

    Units: Gaussian

    This is a book that concentrates on some of the trickier aspects of making a consistent classical theory of electromagnetism. Jackson's last chapter to a large extent is a summary of the discussion here.

  8. Jeans[9]

    Units: Electrostatic and Electromagnetic mostly, occasional use of ``practical'' units, the forerunner of SI.

    The 1948 edition that I have is a reprint of the 1925 edition. Remarkably modern (and comprehensive) treatment of statics with some interesting radiation problems. Includes many problems that were later incorporated by Smythe in his book. Only old quantum theory was known in 1925, so you should mostly ignore the few bits of quantum mechanics described.

  9. Jackson 1st and 2nd editions

    Units: Gaussian

    In many ways I like Jackson's first and second editions better than the third edition. The first edition was compact enough that a two semester class could cover everything in it. The second edition is substantially larger so everything can't be covered, but a lot of interesting physics was added. If you are having trouble with converting between SI and Gaussian units you might want to pick up a copy of the first or second editions so you can compare the equations. When buying used, remember that the later printings are better corrected.

2 Quantum Electrodynamics

  1. Heitler[10]

    Units: Gaussian

    This is an old (the first edition predates the renormalized quantum field theory that gave finite results) but still useful text that gives much of the quantum and some classical results that are derived classically in Jackson. It is good to compare to see where quantum effects come in.

  2. Feynman[11]

    Units: Gaussian

    A short book describing Feynman's view of quantum electrodynamics along with reprints of a couple of his papers.

  3. Bjorken and Drell[12,13]

    Units: Heaviside-Lorentz

    This was one of the standard texts on QED and field theory when I was a graduate student. It is dated now since it does not cover gauge theory, but does cover QED well. A comparison with Jackson's purely classical results is helpful. Note that most quantum field theory texts (and papers) use Heaviside-Lorentz units.

3 Mathematical References

These are some useful mathematical references. Note that I prefer to do most integrals by hand without looking in integral tables. You can also use the algebraic manipulators on your computer such Maple or Mathematica. I find those particularly useful to do long series expansions which are otherwise tedius.

  1. Watson[14]

    A monumental treatment of Bessel functions. It's fun to read just to see the mastery and beautiful organization that Watson brings to this subject. Much of this mathematics was developed simply to be able to tabulate Bessel functions. An easily available subroutine package from netlib will now evaluate Bessel functions for essentially all interesting cases quickly and painlessly, so many of these results are of more academic interest, especially the tables in the back.

  2. Dwight[15]

    The tables in the last fourth of this book are essentially useless today, but the rest of the book contains a very nice set of integral tables along with the basics of things like Bessel functions and Elliptic integrals. If I can't do an integral, I look here first before spending time looking in the Bateman manuscript project books or Gradshteyn and Ryzhik.

  3. Abramowitz and Stegun[16]

    I also have a copy of the Dover reprint which gives the latest corrections. If you buy an older used copy of the NBS version, you should spend a little time correcting it against the Dover reprint.

    This book has lots of good stuff about all sorts of special functions. If you don't require too much accuracy, you can often code up a ten line subroutine for special functions using the information here so you don't have to carry around larger library packages. The tables are essentially useless today except perhaps checking that 10 line subroutine, but there is material, for example how to reduce integrals to the standard set of elliptic integrals, that is still useful and not easy to find elsewhere.

  4. Bateman Manuscript Project[17,18]

    These are five volumes of useful material on special functions. There are three volumes of properties of special functions and two volumes of integral transforms. Of course integral transforms are really integrals so these are also a set of integral tables that often have integrals not easily found elsewhere. One drawback is that the notation is not always the same as used by physicists.

  5. Arfken[19]

    Basic mathematics for physicists at a somewhat lower level than most other math methods books. Too much explanation for my taste.

  6. Mathews and Walker[20]

    A quirky, but interesting math methods book. It has good coverage of series summation and things like Wiener-Hopf.

  7. Wyld[21]

    I took a one semester math methods course from Bill Wyld, and he passed out copies of the manuscript that later became his book (the text he used was Matthews and Walker). I have the manuscript copy. This is another good source for properties of special functions etc.

  8. Courant and Hilbert[22,23]

    Two volumes of useful results. The first volume is most useful for this class. It contains good explanations of things like completeness and Sturm-Liouville.

  9. Gradshteyn and Ryzhik[24]

    A fairly comprehensive but, I find, difficult to use table of integrals etc.

  10. Whittaker and Watson[25]

    This is the original mathematical methods book. It is heavier on proofs than more modern books and the applications are often left to your imagination. Excellent coverage of complex variables and contour integrations. It has good sections on elliptic functions and integrals. The 1950 edition I have is a reprint of the last edition first published in 1927.

4 Engineering Books

All engineering books use SI electrical units. Some of them use inches for the unit of length too.

Below are a few of my favorites. Engineering texts often appeal to circuit theory analogies. If you are good at circuit theory, you may find these very helpful. I enjoy reading about the same physics from a somewhat different point of view.

  1. King, Mimno and Wing[26]

    This was written from notes for courses given for war time training during World War II. The mathematical level is closer to high school than to a graduate physics course, but it is easy reading with a lot of diagrams and physical descriptions that can be illuminating.

  2. Fano, Chu, and Adler[27]

    An undergraduate level book that has some interesting results on going from electromagnetism to circuit theory.

  3. Ramo, Whinnery, and Van Duzer,[28]

    An excellent undergraduate level book that covers many of the topics in the first 10 chapters of Jackson from an engineering perspective.

  4. Harrington[29]

    A wonderful book that uses the boundary element method to calculate things like electromagnetic scattering and radiation. There are a few examples in statics as a warm up. Notice this was published in 1968.

5 Miscellaneous

  1. The Feynman lectures[30]

    Feynman's idea of freshman level physics. If you haven't read these you should. The second volume covers some of the topics covered in Jackson and is worth reading if you have trouble understanding Jackson.


W. K. H. Panofsky and M. Phillips, Classical Electricity and Magnetism (Addison-Wesley, New York, 1962).

J. A. Stratton, Electromagnetic Theory (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1941).

M. Born and E. Wolf, Principles of Optics, Electromagnetic theory of propagation, interference and diffraction of light, seventh ed. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999).

L. D. Landau and E. M. Lifshitz, The Classical Theory of Fields (Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1971).

L. D. Landau and E. M. Lifshitz, Electrodynamics of Continuous Media (Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1975).

J. C. Maxwell, A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (Clarendon, London, 1891).

W. R. Smythe, Static and Dynamic Electricity, 2nd ed. (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1950).

F. Rohrlich, Classical Charged Particles (Addison-Wesley, Redwood City, 1990).

S. J. Jeans, The Mathematical Theory of Electricity and Magnetism, fifth ed. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1948).

W. Heitler, The Quantum Theory of Radiation, 3rd ed. (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1970).

R. Feynman, Quantum Electrodynamics (W.A. Benjamin, New York, 1962).

J. Bjorken and S. Drell, Relativistic Quantum Mechanics (McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1964).

J. Bjorken and S. Drell, Relativistic Quantum Fields (McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1965).

G. N. Watson, A Treatise on the Theory of Bessel Functions, 2nd ed. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1980).

H. B. Dwight, Tables of Integrals and Other Mathematical Data, fourth ed. (MacMillan, Toronto, 1969).

M. Abramowitz and I. Stegun, Handbook of Mathematical Functions (National Bureau of Standards, New York, 1964).

A. Erdélyi, Higher Transcendental Functions (McGraw Hill, New York, 1953).

A. Erdélyi, Tables of Integral Transforms (McGraw Hill, New York, 1954).

G. Arfken, Mathmatical Methods for Physicists, 3rd ed. (Academic Press, New York, 1984).

J. Mathews and R. Walker, Mathematical Methods of Physics (W.A. Benjamin, New York, 1964).

W. Wyld, Offset printed lecture notes, later published (Physics Department, Urbana, 1973).

R. Courant and D. Hilbert, Methods of Mathematical Physics (Interscience Publishers, Inc., New York, 1953), Vol. 1.

R. Courant and D. Hilbert, Methods of Mathematical Physics (Interscience Publishers, Inc., New York, 1962), Vol. 2.

I. S. Gradshteyn, I. M. Ryzhkik, and A. Jeffrey, Table of Integrals, Series, and Products, fifth ed. (Academic Press, San Diego, 1994).

E. Whittaker and G. Watson, A Course of Modern Analysis, An Introduction to the General Theory of Infinite Processes and of Analytic Functions; with an Account of the Principal Transcendental Functions, fourth ed. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1950).

R. W. P. King, H. R. Mimno, and A. H. Wing, Transmission Lines Antennas and Wave Guides, 1st ed. (MacGraw-Hill, New York, 1945).

R. M. Fano, L. J. Chu, and R. B. Adler, Electromagnetic Fields, Energy and Forces, 1st ed. (John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1960).

S. Ramo, J. R. Whinnery, and T. V. Duzer, Fields and Waves in Communication Electronics, 2nd ed. (John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1984).

R. F. Harringtion, Field Computation by Moment Methods, 1st ed. (MacMillan, New York, 1968).

R. Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, 3 Volumes (Addison Wesley, New York, 1966).

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