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Classical Purcell E&M recommendation?

  1. Nov 18, 2017 #1
    I have already taken the following online courses:
    - Physics 1 (calc based, mechanics)
    - Linear Algebra
    - Calculus 1
    - Calculus 2
    - Electronics technician by trade

    Next semester I will be taking multi variable calculus, in preparation for a brick and mortar Canadian university for fall of 2018.

    I used the resnick/halliday/walker book for my first physics course and I wasn't a fan of all the messy examples and problems, too many colors and fancy pictures, not enough substance IMO.

    Based on my current knowledge, would you recommend that I acquire Purcell's E&M book to use for pysics studying alongside my calc 3 course? If so, which version?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2017 #2
    I would maybe go over Mechanics again at the level of Kleppner and Kolenkow. The problems in Purcell are more difficult than those in KK. There is a nice electromag book by Kipp. Kipp is at a lower level than Purcell, but higher than HRW.
  4. Nov 19, 2017 #3

    Wrichik Basu

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    For electromagnetism, what about "Introduction to Electromagnetism" by D. J. Griffiths?

    Also check out the answers to this question.
  5. Nov 20, 2017 #4


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    I think Purcell would be too much to follow until after you have have learned multivariable and vector calculus. To be honest, I would suggest first learning electromagnetism from Halliday&Resnick or some similar book instead of from Purcell. My first course in electromagnetism was based on Purcell and it was brutal - even with a helpful professor and excellent TA it was very painful. Purcell is a fun book after you already understand the material. Good luck,

  6. Nov 21, 2017 #5


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    My own experience was totally different. Purcell was the book from which I learned vector calculus (before that I knew nothing about it), and I loved it for that.
  7. Nov 21, 2017 #6


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    My recommendation is to avoid this book since I don't know a single book about E&M that's more confusing the reader in its attempt to be pedagogical. Only because an author is a Nobel Laureate it's not a guarantee for good teaching! For a similar approach but much more fun to read, see Schwartz, Principles of Electrodynamics. For classical 3D Euclidean vector calculus see the excellent introductory chapter of Abraham, Becker, The classical theory of electricity and magnetism or Sommerfeld, Lectures on theoretical physics, vol. 2 (hydrodynamics).

    For the utmost efficient treatment of the relativistic covariant approach (but maybe a bit hard as a first book on E&M) see Landau, Lifshitz vol. 2 (Classical Field Theory). For the traditional approach as an intro textbook take the Feynman Lectures, vol. 2 or Griffiths.
  8. Nov 28, 2017 #7
    Thank you guys, I appreciate the input!
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