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Classical Electrodynamics


Admission Requirements

Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMV), AN1, AN2, AN3


The first-year course EMV led up to Maxwell's equations, and this is where CED starts. The course explores the solutions and consequences of Maxwell's equations. Before doing so, we first discuss how Maxwell's equations are modified in the presence of a polarizable medium. Next, electromagnetic wave propagation in vacuum, in polarizable media, and at the interface of the two are discussed. The classical laws of diffraction and refraction are found to follow naturally from the equations.
Electromagnetic waves are seen to carry enrgy and momentum, and we will formulate laws of conservation of enegy and momentum.
In order to connect the waves to the sources of the waves (time-dependent charge and current distributions), Maxwell's equations are reformulated in terms of the potential and vector potential for the fields. The time delay involved in the effects of changes of the charges and currents arriving at the point of observation is included by replacing time by retarded time in the potentials. Putting this together permits us to derive general expressions for the potentials of moving charges (the Liénard-Wiechert potentials), and from these we obtain general forms for the electric and magnetic fields.
Finally we use these expression to explore the important phenomenon of radiation emitted by accelerating charges (dipole radiation and synchrotron radiation).

Course objectives

After completion of this course you will be able to: – apply the theory of electromagnetism through Maxwell’s equations, using the tools of vector calculus. – explain the unifying connections between seemingly different phenomena in nature such as electromagnetic induction and optics. – describe the basic properties of wave propagation, diffraction and interference. – explain how electromagnetic fields are generated by accelerating charges. – describe the mechanical properties of electromagnetic fields (energy and momentum flux density).
You will also have enhanced your general problem-solving and mathematical skills.


For detailed information go to Timetable in Brightspace

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

The course will be delivered in English by black-board instruction, combined with power-point illustrations. Weekly home assignments are offered, in which you are required to apply your mathematical skills and physics understanding to a variety of situations and systems.
See Brightspace

Assessment method

Written Examination with short questions

Reading list

The course is based on the book by D.J. Griffiths , Introduction to Electrodynamics (Cabridge university press, fourth edition, ISBN 1108420419), and covers chapters 4, 6, 8 – 11.

Recommended further reading: John David Jackson, Classical Electrodynamics (Wiley, 1998), ISBN 9780471309321


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.
Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Contactgegevens Docent:Prof.dr. J.M. van Ruitenbeek