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Textbook for E&M

  1. Sep 14, 2009 #1
    I want to study electromagnetism, but my math background is only calc I (working on calc II right now). Is there a good textbook on E&M that is appropriate for my background? 'Physics for scientists and engineers' by Serway was recommended but I'd like to cross-check with the community.

    Or, would you recommend focusing on calc II / III so I can get a better understanding of E&M with a more math heavy book?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2009 #2


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    The best you can do right now is the study elementary E&M (as part of the general physics curriculum). Unforunately, you can't go on a higher level than that, because of the lack of math (and physics) knowledge. I'd say go ahead and start working on Serway's book.

    Once you got the basics covered down (and finished the calculus and general physics sequence), then you can start working on an intermediate-level E&M textbook, probably at the level of Griffiths.
  4. Sep 14, 2009 #3


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    Learning vector calculus (generally calculus 3) is very important in EM. The best example are Maxwell equations. You won't understand them if you only have calculus II under your belt.

    As for the book, when you're done with the math, Physics by Halliday/Resnick might be a good introduction to electricity and magnetism. Then "Berkeley Physics course" by Purcell is also a good choice, though the level is intermediate.
  5. Sep 15, 2009 #4
    With your math background, you will be able to tackle Purcell with a little extra effort. Purcell is a good book and will be a good prelude to something like Griffiths.
  6. Sep 15, 2009 #5
    the prerequisites for Physics II is Calc II (integrals) but if you know Calc III (multivariable) you'll get a far better understanding.

    are you trying to self study E&M before doing calc II/III? In that case it's okay imo. You can selfstudy the non-calc based E&M and take calc-based course later on.

    i would not recommended taking non-calc based E&M course. Get Calc II done, and then do calc based E&M while doing Calc III and you'll get a better understanding. If you want to be done with Calc III first that's okay too but then you'll be waiting +1 semester.
  7. Sep 15, 2009 #6
    Yes, I am trying to self-study it.

    Since the replies favor studying non-calc E&M, can anyone compare the textbooks? I've been recommended Serway, Halliday, and Purcell. I actually have an old copy of Halliday but if it's too advanced / other books are better I'm willing to buy them.
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