A Maxwellian Path to Maxwell's Equations: Chapters from Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism and Other Papers

Edited with running commentary by

 Howard J. Fisher

7" x 10", 182 pages, index).
Original publication date, 2022.
For pricing and ordering information, see the ordering section below.

A Maxwellian Path coverThis slender book opens a path through Maxwell’s massive Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism that attains two important objectives:

—in Maxwell’s own words and mathematics, it presents an overview of the revolutionary field theory of electricity and magnetism, from the most basic phenomena to the complete theory;

—it shows, using additional original papers by Maxwell, how the four Maxwellian equations familiar to later physicists emerge from the more discursive general theory.

The final part of the path, leading from the Treatise to the equations, passes, surprisingly and delightfully, through Maxwell’s presentation of the wave theory of light as a direct consequence of electromagnetic field theory.

A full understanding of the theoretical development requires only elementary calculus. Moreover, Maxwell’s numerous clear physical examples and illustrations allow even those without a knowledge of calculus to understand the general features of electromagnetic theory, as Maxwell himself developed it.

Throughout the book, Howard Fisher’s commentary (at the bottom of each page) provides explanations of terminology, extra diagrams illustrating Maxwell’s descriptions, assistance with the mathematics, cross-references to previous sections, and explanations of Maxwell’s sometimes laconic statements.

Readers who know of Maxwell’s work only through physics textbooks and other secondary material will be delighted by the subtlety and lucidity in Maxwell’s development of electromagnetism. Those, on the other hand, whose knowledge of physics is more limited will nonetheless find a great deal that is clear, thoughtful, and fascinating in the adventure of following the original thoughts of one of the giants of modern science.


  • Shows how modern versions of Maxwell's Equations are implicit in Maxwell's Treatise, explained using Maxwell's own writings.
  • The only account of Maxwell's Equations that is true to Maxwell's electromagnetic theory.
  • Over seventy illustrations clarifying Maxwell's mathematics and equipment.

About the Editor, Howard J. Fisher

Howard Fisher came to the faculty at St. John's College in Annapolis in the mid-1960s with degrees in physics. Teaching in the St. John's curriculum, which includes substantial readings and laboratory work in scientific classics, he discovered the real Maxwell hidden behind modern electromagnetic theory. His studies of works of Faraday and Maxwell have brought illumination and delight to students and colleagues for many decades. Green Lion Press is proud to offer his guided editions to a wider readership. Titles include Faraday's Experimental Researches in Electricity: Guide to a First reading, Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism: The Central Argument, Antoine Lavoisier: Oxygen, Acids, and Water (a Green Cat Module for Humanities Studies), and the running commentary in Lavoisier's Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, Preliminary Discourse and Part One.  

Sample pages

Below are links to PDF versions of Fisher's account of the purpose of this book, and Maxwell's "Note on the Electromagnetic Theory of Light," which is fascinating in itself and also provides the key to expressing Maxwell's Equations in a more familiar form.
You may need to open these PDF documents in Acrobat Reader or an equivalent program.

Ordering Information for A Maxwellian Path to Maxwell's Equations: Chapters from Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism and Other Papers

Sewn softcover, 978-1-888009-53-8, list price: $20.00 USD.

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