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Calculus Updating my Electricity and Magnetism --> Vector Calculus?

  1. Oct 24, 2016 #1
    Dear all,

    I'n an EE that finished his degree more than 10 years ago. I wanted to refresh my Electricity and Magnetism knowledge. I bough Purcells book some weeks ago (https://www.amazon.com/dp/110701402...TF8&colid=15PSWMWIMO0TY&coliid=I26DIPOJQU5489) and I'm kind of struggling through the maths (Vector calculus).

    I've been reading this forum and there are some topics related to this, so I narrowed down the options to refresh vector calculus to these 2:

    I'm not looking forward to a profound maths development of the theory. What I need is to understand the concepts in order to be more fluent at studying Purcell's book.

    If any of you has gone through these two books, which one do you recommend?

    Thanks in advance for your replies!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2016 #2


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    If what you want is to understand the concepts, I would recommend Div, grad, curl. Mathews is more of a standard textbook.
  4. Oct 24, 2016 #3
    Thanks!! Will go for Schey's book then,
  5. Oct 24, 2016 #4
    Have a look at Ulaby's book "Fundamentals of Applied Electromagnetics". It teaches EM theory from a engineering perspective. It includes a chapter on vector analysis (divergence, gradient, curl, laplacian). It's an interesting book. Instead of putting theory first it begins with practical engineering concepts like transmission lines, Smith charts, etc. As you get to the end of the book it goes deeper into Maxwell's equations, optics, plane-waves, etc.
  6. Oct 24, 2016 #5
    Div Grad and Curl is the way to go.
  7. Oct 24, 2016 #6
    I would agree with the others on div grad curl and all that.

    Another option (which may be cheaper) would be Foundations of Electrodynamics by Moon and Spencer now in Dover paperback. It has the added advantage of worked problems in detail for different EM topics (in a bit more detail then Purcell).
  8. Oct 25, 2016 #7
    The Feynman Lectures on Physics are online for free and have chapters on differential and integral vector calculus. You might want to listen to what Feynman has to say on the matter.

    Chapter 2 and 3 of the second volume, to be precise.
  9. Oct 25, 2016 #8


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    I also recommend another book on electrodynamics, but obviously I'm pretty lonely with my dislike of Purcell. In my opinion this book obscures the elegance of the relativistic formulation. Much better are in my opinion the textbook by Schwartz (at the same level as Purcell but with much clearer explanations) or Landau&Lifshitz (without all the pedagogical ado, but that's perhaps also a disadvantage for the beginner). An excellent introduction to vector calculus can be find in the classic by Becker&Sauter, which is available in English in a Dover Publication book.
  10. Oct 25, 2016 #9
    Thank you all for your replies. I will try to check them all but obviously there different opinions.

    Besides the books you have been mentioning here, do you recommend any software to run some simulations on electricity and magnetism?

    For example, I would like at some point simulate a high voltage cable surrounded by some metallic parts, with their resistivity to ground, etc. I would like to know how the whole system behaves: electric field, magnetic field, distortion in these fields, leakage current, etc.

    I don't really know if there is a software that can handle all these things in the same package.

    PS: English is not my mother tongue so, by all means, sorry If my English is not clear enough at some point (don't hesitate to ask for clarifications if you need).
  11. Oct 25, 2016 #10
    Here is a link to a list of free and commercial software along with a short description of methods and usage:


    The commercial versions are much easier to use (GUI front ends) but expensive. I do not have a specific recommendation for the problem you are investigating
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