Goldstein’s Classical Mechanics (1950)
This book is intended as an advanced text on classical mechanics for the student whose sole desire is to learn quantum mechanics. The author defends teaching mechanics to a physicist despite the fact that “it introduces no new physical concepts... nor does it aid him... in solving the practical mechanics problems he encounters in the laboratory.” He states that “classical mechanics remains an indispensable part of the physicist’s education” because it “serves as the springboard for the various branches of modern physics” and “affords the student an opportunity to master many of the mathematical techniques necessary for quantum mechanics....” After reading this preamble we are not surprised to learn that Goldstein finds “the traditional treatment... no longer adequate” and that at the same time the basic concepts of mechanics “will not be analyzed critically....” His treatment of what is ordinarily called mechanics is little else than formal manipulation; his frequent remarks concerning physics almost invariably fall outside the classical framework and deal with the behavior of small particles. He observes that in some special cases classical principles remain valid even today, and he quotes as illustrations the neutron pile and the V-2 rocket. There are frequent promises of better things to come when the student reaches quantum mechanics.
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Note for the Reprinting
- This review of Herbert Goldstein’s Classical Mechanics,Cambridge, Addison Wesley, 1950, was written at the request of the editor of a journal expressly devoted to the teaching of physics, but because of its “unfavorable nature” he refused to publish it. As the book is still widely sold, I print my review now, thinking that perhaps it is not too late to prevent some unwary student from expecting that the contents might live up to the title.Google Scholar
- 2.G. Hamel, “Die Axiome der Physik”, Geiger U. Scheel’s Handbuch der Physik, Volume 5 (1927): 1–42.Google Scholar