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Griffiths vs Purcell vs Schwartz for undergrad E&M

  1. Dec 12, 2011 #1
    So I'll be taking undegrad E&M 1 next semester and was looking for a good book to prepare for it before the semester starts. People seem to like Griffiths and Purcell generally. Shwartz also seems to have some good reviews (and is quite cheap) on Amazon but I'm not quite sure what level it is intended to be .

    I'd go with Griffiths but I was using his Quantum Mechanics book this semester and while I learned a decent amount from it, I wasn't a big fan of it. His usual way of approaching things seemed to be quickly introduce a topic, don't give any historical or practical motivation for it, give a half assed example and then throw crazy problems at you with just a lot of unnecessary algebra. If his E&M book is also like that then I'd rather use some other text. Purcell on the other hand was intended to be a "freshman E&M" book if I'm not incorrect.

    Schwartz on the other hand seems to be a good book but it's focus seems to be more on relativistic E&M.

    So which one do you guys think I should choose and start working through?

    Also, it would be nice if you guys could recommend a good math book which goes over things like Complex Analysis, PDE's and topics like special functions. That's for a course called "PDE's w/ Applied Math".
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 13, 2011 #2
    I also used Griffiths Quantum Mechanics textbook and I felt like he introduced a collection of topics, but never strung them together. I've skimmed through his E&M textbook and the writing is very similar.

    You're right that Purcell is a freshman level book; however, it's rigorous and would be a great stepping stone to your upper level E&M class. If you're looking for an actual upper level textbook, go with Wangsness Electromagnetic Fields.

    For applied PDE's, I really enjoyed Partial Differential Equations with Fourier Series and Boundary Value Problems by Asmar.
  4. Dec 13, 2011 #3


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    Schwartz is a nice book, but it is graduate level. Also it brings relativity in at the start, which is nice if you already have a good background, but can make it hard for a beginner.

    A lot depends on how you did in your freshman course. If you struggled, then I recommend you use Purcell or go over your freshman text to know it really well.
    If you found the freshman course easy, then you might try Franklin "Classical Electromagnetism". It is a graduate text, above the Griffith level, but starts at the
    beginning with much of the needed math background. The first 3 or 4 chapters would give you a good start for the undergraduate course.
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