Please recommend undergraduate-level textbooks on electrodynamics which emphasize practical applications and real life examples. Please describe the book's level and contents and its intended audience in as much detail as possible.

Please provide both applications from everyday life for curious students as well as engineering applications from a physics perspective.


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  • Staelin's Electromagnetic Waves. This is really for engineers, focusing on EM radiation with antennas and transmission lines.

  • I.E. Irodov's Basic Laws of Electromagnetism is a good book to start with. For application-level problmes, see his Problems in General Physics.

  • Electromagnetic fields and energy, an MIT textbook. It gives many examples over the course of its explanations.


For advanced undergraduate courses (usually the second semester of engineering EM), these are the references my professor had used. They're focused for RF / microwave engineering folks, particularly the antenna community. Balanis is probably stretching the "ugrad" context but is still usable in certain instances.

  • Ramos's Fields and Waves in Communications Electronics. Some say this is a graduate level text, but my university used this in the first (honors) engineering electromagnetics course. I think it's not too sufficiently advanced, and Ramos has a good chapter on Electromagnetics of Circuits, which I think is great for engineering students trying to bridge the gap between circuit theory and emag. Also, the transmission line chapter is good as well as the microwaves chapter. Waveguide chapters get somewhat mathematically hairy, but you can't avoid that if you're talking about non-rectangular waveguides.

  • Orfanidis's Electromagnetic Waves and Antennas. This is a modern engineering treatment of electrodynamics for engineers that can be used for both intermediate and advanced courses. The text assumes some mathematical background (at least a grasp of vector calculus) and often requires advanced topics (Fourier analysis, complex analysis, etc) for specific topics. For example, his treatment of propagation through multi-layered media and surface waveguides is very mathematically detailed. The treatment of arrays is more advanced than usual, coming from the Fourier transform aperture approach. However, I've known professors who use this for their ugrad courses, supplementing the text with review / math.

  • Balanis's Advanced Engineering Electromagnetics, 2nd Edition. Another treatment of advanced EM for engineers. This is more "complete" than Orfanidis in that the appendices include mathematical review and discussion of techniques used throughout the text. Also a good starting point for the study of geometrical theory of diffraction (GTD) and uniform theory of diffraction (UTD) often not found in most EM texts. My second semester of undergrad engineering EM referenced this book quite often but had supplementary material since Balanis can become rather dense.


A text that I use as a supplement for my undergraduate E&M class is:

Zangwill, Modern Electrodynamics, 2013

This is definitely a more advanced textbook than the usual upper-class E&M texts; I'd put it somewhere between Griffiths and Jackson. Where it excels is in the range of applications provided for the upper-level material. A sample of these:

  • Electrostatic potential energy in the nuclear liquid-drop model
  • Electrostatics of ion channels in cells
  • The four-point resistance probe and the method of images
  • Focusing by axially symmetric magnetic fields in an electron microscope
  • Whistlers
  • The classical Zeeman effect
  • CMB polarization

Also, it contains the funniest E&M problem I've ever encountered: "Find the lowest resonant frequency $\omega_0$ and the exact half-width $\Gamma$ of the resonant cavity God instructed Moses to build in Exodus 25:10–11."

  • $\begingroup$ The only flaw in this book is that uses $ict$ notation for its chapter on relativity. $\endgroup$ – Michael Seifert Mar 8 '17 at 18:39

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