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Mathematics for the Physical Sciences

Leslie Copley
Walter de Gruyter
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Allen Stenger
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This is a weak entry into the mathematical methods textbook market. It has no exercises, it is skimpy on examples (and most of these occur towards the end of the text), and it has a ridiculous cover price.

The coverage is not very broad, although for the most part it covers the most important topics (Padé approximants, which get a whole chapter, may be an exception). About the first third of the book deals with complex analysis, although little use is made of it later. There’s a skimpy chapter on Fourier analysis (series and transforms). The last half of the book deals with differential equations and boundary value problems.

Very Bad Features: (1) No exercises. The author attempts to justify this in the Foreword (p. x) by claiming that students never work exercises that are not assigned, and that instructors have lots of other sources for exercises to assign. (2) No index. This text was conceived as an electronic book, and as such the lack of index would not be so bad, but in a print book it’s hard to find things. Happily the table of contents is very detailed.

There are a moderate number of typographical errors, usually not confusing. For some reason the errors are concentrated in the names of the authors in the bibliography.

This is an open source textbook (licensed under Creative Commons) and is available as a free download at the publisher’s web site, so in theory when you buy this print book you are only paying for the printing and not for marketing or the intellectual labor. The list price of $140 seems excessive for printing a 450-page book.

A much better text is Mary L. Boas’s Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences. It has much more breadth, and a wealth of applications integrated all through the text.

Allen Stenger is a math hobbyist and retired software developer. He is an editor of the Missouri Journal of Mathematical Sciences