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Mathematical Treasure: Heaviside's Electromagnetic Theory

Author(s): 
Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Oliver Heaviside (1850–1925) was a self-trained English physicist and applied mathematician. Much of his research and publications focused on an understanding of the wave theory of electromagnetism. He is known for expanding solution methods for differential equations, largely through introducing operational calculus and utilizing vector analysis. Heaviside’s collected papers were published in three volumes entitled Electromagnetic Theory (1893–1912). The first volume of this series is examined here.

Title page from the 1893 volume I of Oliver Heaviside's Electromagnetic Theory.

The table of contents testifies to the author’s scope of mathematical activity:

Table of contents for Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory. Table of contents for Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory.

Table of contents for Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory. Table of contents for Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory.

Table of contents for Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory. Table of contents for Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory.

Table of contents for Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory. Table of contents for Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory.

Table of contents for Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory.

Of particular interest are Heaviside’s comments on the value of mathematical knowledge, found on pages 6–8.

Page 4 from Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory (1893). Page 5 from Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory (1893).

Page 6 from Heaviside's first volume of Electromagnetic Theory (1893).

The full text can be read online in the Hathi Trust Digital Library; volume I and volume II can also be found in the Internet Archive.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Heaviside's Electromagnetic Theory," Convergence (September 2020)

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