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Looking for an electrodynamics text that includes vector calculus instruction

  1. Jun 12, 2009 #1
    Hello everyone, I wonder if a textbook like the one I described in the subject line exists - most of the classical electrodynamics textbooks I've looked at assume you already have a solid background in vector calculus. I'm trying to do a self-study in electrodynamics, and while I have taken courses in single variable calculus and differential equations I have little experience with vector calculus. I'm wondering if there's a text available that uses electrodynamics as a vehicle for teaching the concepts of vector calculus (divergence, curl, grad, etc.), or at least "holds your hand" a little bit more through the derivations than some of the "standard" texts I've looked at. Or perhaps I should just buckle down and do a course of study in vector calculus? Any input would be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 12, 2009 #2

    Doc Al

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    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Jun 12, 2009 #3


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    Feynman's book on electrodynamics (Feynman lectures vol 2.) includes a few chapters on vector calculus.
  5. Jun 12, 2009 #4


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    The first chapter in Griffiths reviews all the vector calculus you'll need for that book. But I guess you found it too brief, since you speak of 'classical books'?
  6. Jun 13, 2009 #5
    The previously mentioned Div, Grad, Curl, and all that is exactly what you're looking for, I think.

    Many E&M books devote a section at the start of the book to going over vector calculus, but more as review, to plug a few holes in knowledge the student may have, and to make sure you understand their notation.
  7. Jun 13, 2009 #6
    I have the books mentioned by dx and Landau.
    Feynman's lectures on physics is a good book for understanding electrodynamics from a physical point of view, and he includes a couple chapters which will help you through vector calculus. David J. Griffith's book also devotes the first chapter to vector calculus, the Dirac delta function, and curvilinear coordinates (spherical and cylindrical coordinate systems). Understanding vector calculus will take some time though, and shouldn't be rushed through.

    If you are interested, the books mentioned are:

    The Feynman Lectures on Physics
    Author: Matthew Sands, Richard P Feynman, Robert B Leighton
    ISBN 0805390456
    (Three volume set. Volume II deals mostly with electrodynamics)

    Introduction to Electrodynamics
    Author: David J. Griffiths
    ISBN 013805326X

    It wouldn't hurt to go with a text devoted to vector calculus. The payoff in the end will be worth it. If you decide not to study vector calculus directly, then you should be able to gradually obtain what you need by familiarizing yourself the subject through physics.
  8. Jun 13, 2009 #7
    I was in the same situation as you a few weeks ago. I would recommend learning vector calculus first, and then move on to electrodynamics. It's worth the wait. It'll take about 3 weeks to learn it using the book I used, which isn't as elementary as the first chapter of Griffiths nor as advanced as a standard undergraduate text but also includes tensors and applications.

    This book is Vector Calculus by Paul C. Matthews. I got mine off Alibris for about 8 USD, but now they ran out of copies below 25 USD.

    Here's a link form amazon:

    It's surprisingly short, with about 150 pages of content.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Jun 13, 2009 #8
    Thanks so much for the references, everyone. I will definitely take a look at the texts suggested!
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