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Scientific Programming
Volume 19, Issue 4, Pages 259-264
http://dx.doi.org/10.3233/SPR-2011-0331

Book Review

Adrian Brown

Copyright © 2011 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Phillip M. Morse and Herman Feshbach, Professors of Physics at the MIT, published their biblical-sized textbook ‘Methods of Theoretical Physics’ with McGraw-Hill in May 1953. At 1978 pages and published in two books, it is an intimidating twin tome that should still be atop the reading lists or the bookshelves of every mathematical physicist. What material is covered in this book? In the most concise of terms, this book is devoted to the study of differential equations and associated boundary conditions that describe physical fields. The thirteen chapters address what circumstances warrant the use of which differential equations, and most often addresses the question of coordinate system transformations, for example, how do Green's functions for Laplace's Equation transform under different coordinate systems? Under what circumstances the solutions can be expected to be separable? Many examples are covered to illustrate these points. Why is this book relevant to Software Programmers? This book is part of the background that any scientific programmer is likely to need in dealing with physical fields. This book was written before personal computers became ubiquitous, however it is still an outstanding effort to tie the methods of solving differential equations governing fields together in one book. The book never received a second edition, however, it was reprinted to an outstanding standard by Feshbach Publishing since 2004, run by the children of Herman Feshbach. Their website is feshbachpublishing.com. The majority of this review is a mini-commentary of the book showing what is covered in a very terse fashion, which may be useful as a summary even for those who have already read the full text. I then give a brief analysis of the approach to mathematical physics taken by the book. Finally, I will discuss who will benefit from reading this magnificent treatise, nearly 60 years after it was first published.