A solid foundation in solid-state physics

The Physics of Solids
November 24, 2000

"Is there really a need for another solid-state physics textbook?" opens the preface. What differentiates this book is that it is intended for use much earlier in a physics course than is traditional. This imposes certain constraints: in particular that the whole subject must be covered without at any stage assuming knowledge of Schrodinger's equation.

This is all the more ambitious since the book explicitly encourages students to develop their ability to solve quantitative problems. There are plenty of worked examples in the body of the text, and there is generous provision of questions at the end of each chapter (with comprehensive solutions at the back).

I like the way the book starts with bonds between atoms before the obligatory chapter on crystalline solids, followed by an excellent treatment of mechanical properties. The standard topics of solid-state physics are then presented, starting with electronic properties. There is a splendid final chapter on polymers.

The style is confident, authoritative and up to date, though some of my colleagues might raise an eyebrow at assertions such as "other microscopes have been developed which have far greater sensitivity than the electron microscope". The pattern is to start with the phenomenological and progress to the analytical, for example effective mass in cyclotron experiments is presented in section 5.6, but only in section 5.11 is a theoretical treatment given.

Richard Feynman, in evaluating his own attempt to teach quantum mechanics early in a physics course, reckoned he had failed. Has Richard Turton succeeded? I think he has.

Since this is an elementary book, it is one students will grow out of rather than grow into, but it will have served like a good schoolmaster giving them a solid foundation at the start of their course.


Andrew Briggs is professor of materials, University of Oxford.

The Physics of Solids: First edition

Author - Richard Turton
ISBN - 0 19 850352 0
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Price - £19.99
Pages - 418

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