Physics Reading List

Please complete these Maths and Mechanics problems and email your answers to Dr Christopher Palmer, no later than 5pm on Monday 14 September -

Please make sure you read through the following resources from the Physics Department:

You will be emailed directly by the University’s Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division with a link to some online bridging information. 

Physics at university differs in many ways from the subject studied at school level. Many new subjects are introduced and developed. Familiar-sounding areas of the subject are re-developed from firmer foundations. More extensive use is made of mathematics as a tool in the logical development of the subject.

The first-year courses are designed to assist in this transition, and about half of the first year is spent in developing the necessary mathematical expertise.

Oxford Physics provides self study materials to help new students make the transition from school to University level mathematics. These are based on the FLAP (Flexible Learning Approach to Physics) modules developed by the Open University, and will be provided to students who need them either on or shortly before arrival. A set of self-assessment questions is provided to help you work out which, if any, modules you need. The FLAP mathematics modules have also been published as two books, Basic Mathematics for the Physical Sciences and Further Mathematics for the Physical Sciences, which are suitable for students who want to start studying straight away. All FLAP modules are available at

The major textbooks used in the first year are listed below. As an introduction to the subject, however, it would be hard to improve on Feynman’s ‘Lectures’ (Lectures on Physics; Feynman, Leighton and Sands, Addison Wesley Vols. 1-3). These are cleverly written, and sufficiently advanced to be used up to degree level, but many sections can be read with profit at this stage.

To avoid initial difficulties in mathematics, students are advised to revise A-level work on differentiation, integration and differential equations and to study chapters 1 and 2 in Boas (see below). This is especially important for those who have taken single maths at A-level. Single maths students are advised to do some extra work on integration and differential equations and maths applied to mechanics.

It is highly recommended that students look at the Maths online bridging programme offered by the Physics Department and check that they have covered the topics. The department will be in touch with you directly to provide further information.

The following list shows the books currently used as primary sources in the first year of the Physics Honour course. (Second-hand copies can sometimes be obtained from Oxford booksellers.) In addition to its normal short-term loan and reference role, the College Library keeps multiple copies of some standard texts for loan.

Riley, K.F., Hobson, M.P., and Bence, S.J. Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering (this is the recommended maths textbook for the first year of the course)
Boas Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences (Wiley)
Lorrain and Corson Electromagnetism, Principles and Applications (W.H. Freeman)
Lyons All you wanted to know about Mathematics… Vols. 1 & 2 (Cambridge)
Krane Modern Physics (Wiley)
Hecht Optics (Addison Wesley) (not for Physics and Philosophy)
Main Vibrations and Waves in Physics (Cambridge)
McCall, M.W. Classical Mechanics (Wiley)

If you have questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with the College.

June 2020