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Good physics books for mathematicians

  1. Oct 10, 2011 #1
    Hi everybody,

    I am a graduate student in mathematics, and have hardly any physics background.
    I was looking to broaden my knowledge in physics, and started by taking the Berkeley Physics Course, Vol. 2 ( Electricity and Magnetism).
    On the one hand I find the book too detailed and long, and on the other hand more advanced books rely on prior knowledge I don't have.

    Can anybody recommend an electricity and magnetism book that is "concentrated" but still doesn't rely on background in the topic?
    If you know of books on other physics topics that are good for mathematicians like me, I would be happy to hear.

    Thanks ahead!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2011 #2


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    Purcell is a great book, I used it last semester in my introductory honors course. It really develops magnetism naturally from the relativistic transformations of the field which I thought was fascinating. It also really helped me understand induction intuitively. Now this semester I'm taking the year long course required for the major and I'm using David Griffiths Introduction to Electrodynamics which is the standard. I like it so far but my professor says that the second half is not as good. These texts are pretty standard. Purcell is usually used in the second half of honors introductory sequence (Kleppner is used for mechanics which is also a great book you might want to checkout) and Griffiths for the yearlong sequence. The book used for the grad course is usually Jackson Classical Electrodynamics from what I've heard. My professor also has Vanderline Classical Electromagnetic Theory listed on his website but I haven't seen that before.

    Grad students have told me that for Quantum mechanics, Sakurai is the best. They said you don't need any background in quantum mechanics to read it but I haven't gotten it yet. Another great resource is Feynmann's lectures.
  4. Oct 25, 2011 #3
    Electricity and Magnetism: Probably the best book out there at the undergraduate level is “Introduction to Electrodynamics” 3rd ed. by David J. Griffiths. It “thinks” like a physicist, and I keep my 1st ed. as a reference. At the graduate school level comes one year of “Classical Electrodynamics” 3rd ed. by John David Jackson, Wiley, 1998. I had 2nd ed., and the first edition dates back to 1962.

    I actually have a review of texts/literature/key math tools/key math ideas from junior physics to graduate/postgraduate physics. A lot of the books are math books and/or mathematics books for phyicists written by mathematicians across algebra, geometry, and algebraic topology.

    I was well on my way to a PhD in math when I switched to physics, so I had to find paths from the mathematician's perspective to the phyicist's perspective.

    The forum link to the "review" is


    First is a short document you can download, than a much longer one tracing math/physics from the early 17th century to today.


    Alex A
  5. Dec 14, 2011 #4
  6. Jul 13, 2012 #5
    Sandra Chapman wrote a brief book with the title "Core Electrodynamics" that might of of interest to someone who wants a mathematical introduction to electromagnetism and relativity.

    A version of the book has been made available for download using this web link.


    Here is a description of the book:

    Core Electrodynamics is an advanced textbook that engages the student in the elegance of electrodynamics and special relativity, whilst giving them the tools to begin graduate study.The book is written clearly, incisively and has few prerequisites. After some revision matter, the book's core material links elementary, electromagnetic concepts with relativity and field theory, introducing the key concepts of tensors and tensor calculus. Core Electrodynamics provides the basis for graduate study in field theory, high energy astrophysics, general relativity and quantum electrodynamics.
  7. Jul 13, 2012 #6
  8. Jul 15, 2012 #7
    Spivak (author of the standard Calculus texts) wrote a series of books called "Physics for Mathematicians", which gets some pretty good reviews. Sounds like that's what you're looking for.
  9. Jul 18, 2012 #8
    For classical mechanics, you have to check out Mathematical Methods of Classical Mechanics by V I Arnold. I liked Sudbury's book on quantum mechanics.

    In addition to Baez's book list, he has these seminar notes and course notes:

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