Springfield, Ohio — Intrigued by the power of James Clerk Maxwell and his equations, which are the basis of the field of electromagnetics, Wittenberg University Associate Professor of Physics Dan Fleisch was inspired to write A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations, which has become a sales phenomenon on amazon.com.
The book's chapters give an expanded view of each equation and explain the meaning of each symbol. The approach has worked – amazon.com has run out of stock several times and sales ranking have climbed as high as 2,900. Even more impressively, the book became the No. 1 best seller of all books in the area of Waves and Mechanics and No. 16 of all the Physics books sold.
In addition to the success on amazon.com, the Royal Library in Copenhagen made A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations its "Book of the Month" on the Recommended Reading List for March. Fleisch has also received three positive reviews on amazon.com, saying this is the best overview of Maxwell's Equations and the best book the students' have read in a while.
"I'm hearing from students all over the world who are using the book and who seem very appreciative of the pedagogical features such as the podcasts and interactive solutions," Fleisch said. "Another student-friendly feature of the book is the fully interactive solutions, not just answers to each of the problems in the book, on the book's Web site. This allows students to get a hint on a problem, or a maximum of 3 or 4 hints or to see the full solution at once if they prefer."
Fleisch came up with the idea in the late 1990s while co-authoring the fifth edition of the textbook Electromagnetics with Applications with the late John Kraus, a well-known radio astronomer and professor at The Ohio State University.
"We published that book with McGraw-Hill in 1998," said Fleisch, who earned his bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and his master's and Ph.D. from Rice University. "However, a few years later the idea for a book on Maxwell's Equations stayed with me."
Before coming to Wittenberg, Fleisch did radar work in the private sector for almost 20 years. Working in the industry influenced Fleisch's interest in Maxwell and his equations.
Since Maxwell's equations are the basis of radio, television, radar, wireless and other communications technology, Fleisch said, "the time was ripe for a book to be dedicated to these four equations." During his first sabbatical in 2005, Fleisch spent a portion of his time doing research on the Maxwell's work at Cambridge University in England and at the Maxwell Foundation in Edinburgh, Scotland.
After his article on Maxwell was published in The Scotsman, the national newspaper of Scotland, Fleisch was persuaded to go further.
"The positive response I received from that essay gave me the courage to write a proposal for my book, A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations, and then submit that proposal to Cambridge University Press," Fleisch said.
Fleisch said the reason he picked Cambridge University Press was "primarily because they're among the largest and most prestigious academic publishers in the world, and because James Clark Maxwell was a student and professor at Cambridge."
Fleisch hopes the book's great success will help students who study physics for many years to come.
"The response since publication has been overwhelming, and the second printing is now underway," Fleisch. "So this is pretty much a dream come true for me."
Written By: Lauren Johnson '09