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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Preface to the Berkeley Physics Course


This is a two-year elementary college physics course for students majoring in science and engineering. The intention of the writers has been to present elementary physics as far as possible in the way in which it is used by physicists working on the forefront of their field. We have sought to make a course which would vigorously emphasize the foundations of physics. Our specific objectives were to introduce coherently into an elementary curriculum the ideas of special relativity, of quantum physics, and of statistical physics.

This course is intended for any student who has had a physics course in high school. A mathematics course including the calculus should be taken at the same time as this course.

There are several new college physics courses under development in the United States at this time. The idea of making a new course has come to many physicists, affected by the needs both of the advancement of science and engineering and of the increasing emphasis on science in elementary schools and in high schools. Our own course was conceived in a conversation between Philip Morrison of Cornell University and C. Kittel late in 1961. We were encouraged by John Mays and his colleagues of the National Science Foundation and by Walter C. Michels, then the Chairman of the Commission on College Physics. An informal committee was formed to guide the course through the initial stages.