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Classical Mechanics

John R. Taylor University of Colorado

John Taylor has brought to his most recent book, Classical Mechanics, all of the clarity and insight that made his Introduction to Error Analysis a best-selling text.  Classical Mechanics is intended for students who have studied some mechanics in an introductory physics course, such as “freshman physics."

ISBN 978-1-891389-22-1
eISB 978-1-891389-92-4
Publish date: 2005
786 pages


John Taylor has brought to his most recent book, Classical Mechanics, all of the clarity and insight that made his Introduction to Error Analysis a best-selling text.  Classical Mechanics is intended for students who have studied some mechanics in an introductory physics course, such as “freshman physics.”  With unusual clarity, the book covers most of the topics normally found in books at this level, including conservation laws, oscillations, Lagrangian mechanics, two-body problems, non-inertial frames, rigid bodies, normal modes, chaos theory, Hamiltonian mechanics, and continuum mechanics.  A particular highlight is the chapter on chaos, which focuses on a few simple systems, to give a truly comprehensible introduction to the concepts that we hear so much about.  At the end of each chapter is a large selection of interesting problems for the student, 744 in all, classified by topic and approximate difficulty, and ranging for simple exercises to challenging computer projects. A Student Solutions Manual is also available.

Adopted by more than 450 colleges and universities in the US and Canada and translated into six languages, Taylor’s Classical Mechanics is a thorough and very readable introduction to a subject that is four hundred years old but as exciting today as ever.  The author manages to convey that excitement as well as deep understanding and insight.

Link to Solutions Manual

Table of Contents


  1. Newton’s Laws of Motion
    1.1 Classical Mechanics
    1.2 Space and Time
    1.3 Mass and Force
    1.4 Newton’s First and Second Laws; Inertial Frames
    1.5 The Third Law and Conservation of the Momentum
    1.6 Newton’s Second Law in Cartesian Coordinates
    1.7 Two-Dimensional Polar Coordinates
    1.8 Problems for Chapter 1
  2. Projectiles and Charged Particles
    2.1 Air Resistance
    2.2 Linear Air Resistance
    2.3 Trajectory and Range in a Linear Motion
    2.4 Quadratic Air Resistance
    2.5 Motion of a Charge in a Uniform Magnetic Field
    2.6 Complex Exponentials
    2.7 Solution for the Charge in a B Field
    2.8 Problems for Chapter 2
  3. Momentum and Angular Momentum
    3.1 Conservation of Momentum
    3.2 Rockets
    3.3 The Center of Mass
    3.4 Angular Momentum for a Single Particle
    3.5 Angular Momentum for Several Particles
    3.6 Problems for Chapter 3
  4. Energy
    4.1 Kinetic Energy and Work
    4.2 Potential Energy and Conservative Forces
    4.3 Force as the Gradient of Potential Energy
    4.4 The Second Condition that F be Conservative
    4.5 Time-Dependent Potential Energy
    4.6 Energy for Linear One-Dimensional Systems
    4.7 Curvilinear One-Dimensional Systems
    4.8 Central Forces
    4.9 Energy of Interaction of Two Particles
    4.10 The Energy of a Multiparticle System
    4.11 Problems for Chapter 4
  5. Oscillations
    5.1 Hooke’s Law
    5.2 Simple Harmonic Motion
    5.3 Two-Dimensional Oscillators
    5.4 Damped Oscillators
    5.5 Driven Damped Oscillations
    5.6 Resonance
    5.7 Fourier Series
    5.8 Fourier Series Solution for the Driven Oscillator
    5.9 The RMS Displacement; Parseval’s Theorem
    5.10 Problems for Chapter 5
  6. Calculus of Variations
    6.1 Two Examples
    6.2 The Euler-Lagrange Equation
    6.3 Applications of the Euler-Lagrange Equation
    6.4 More than Two Variables
    6.5 Problems for Chapter 6
  7. Lagrange’s Equations
    7.1 Lagrange’s Equations for Unconstrained Motion
    7.2 Constrained Systems; an Example
    7.3 Constrained Systems in General
    7.4 Proof of Lagrange’s Equations with Constraints
    7.5 Examples of Lagrange’s Equations
    7.6 Conclusion
    7.7 Conservation Laws in Lagrangian Mechanics
    7.8 Lagrange’s Equations for Magnetic Forces
    7.9 Lagrange Multipliers and Constraint Forces
    7.10 Problems for Chapter 7
  8. Two-Body Central Force Problems
    8.1 The Problem
    8.2 CM and Relative Coordinates; Reduced Mass
    8.3 The Equations of Motion
    8.4 The Equivalent One-Dimensional Problems
    8.5 The Equation of the Orbit
    8.6 The Kepler Orbits
    8.7 The Unbonded Kepler Orbits
    8.8 Changes of Orbit
    8.9 Problems for Chapter 8
  9. Mechanics in Noninertial Frames
    9.1 Acceleration without Rotation
    9.2 The Tides
    9.3 The Angular Velocity Vector
    9.4 Time Derivatives in a Rotating Frame
    9.5 Newton’s Second Law in a Rotating Frame
    9.6 The Centrifugal Force
    9.7 The Coriolis Force
    9.8 Free Fall and The Coriolis Force
    9.9 The Foucault Pendulum
    9.10 Coriolis Force and Coriolis Acceleration
    9.11 Problems for Chapter 9
  10. Motion of Rigid Bodies
    10.1 Properties of the Center of Mass
    10.2 Rotation about a Fixed Axis
    10.3 Rotation about Any Axis; the Inertia Tensor
    10.4 Principal Axes of Inertia
    10.5 Finding the Principal Axes; Eigenvalue Equations
    10.6 Precession of a Top Due to a Weak Torque
    10.7 Euler’s Equations
    10.8 Euler’s Equations with Zero Torque
    10.9 Euler Angles
    10.10 Motion of a Spinning Top
    10.11 Problems for Chapter 10
  11. Coupled Oscillators and Normal Modes
    11.1 Two Masses and Three Springs
    11.2 Identical Springs and Equal Masses
    11.3 Two Weakly Coupled Oscillators
    11.4 Lagrangian Approach; the Double Pendulum
    11.5 The General Case
    11.6 Three Coupled Pendulums
    11.7 Normal Coordinates
    11.8 Problems for Chapter 11Part II: FURTHER TOPICS
  12. Nonlinear Mechanics and Chaos
    12.1 Linearity and Nonlinearity
    12.2 The Driven Damped Pendulum or DDP
    12.3 Some Expected Features of the DDP
    12.4 The DDP; Approach to Chaos
    12.5 Chaos and Sensitivity to Initial Conditions
    12.6 Bifurcation Diagrams
    12.7 State-Space Orbits
    12.8 Poincare Sections
    12.9 The Logistic Map
    12.10 Problems for Chapter 12
  13. Hamiltonian Mechanics
    13.1 The Basic Variables
    13.2 Hamilton’s Equations for One-Dimensional Systems
    13.3 Hamilton’s Equations in Several Dimensions
    13.4 Ignorable Coordinates
    13.5 Lagrange’s Equations vs. Hamilton’s Equations
    13.6 Phase-Space Orbits
    13.7 Liouville’s Theorem
    13.8 Problems for Chapter 13
  14. Collision Theory
    14.1 The Scattering Angle and Impact Parameter
    14.2 The Collision Cross Section
    14.3 Generalizations of the Cross Section
    14.4 The Differential Scattering Cross Section
    14.5 Calculating the Differential Cross Section
    14.6 Rutherford Scattering
    14.7 Cross Sections in Various Frames
    14.8 Relation of the CM and Lab Scattering Angles
    14.9 Problems for Chapter 14
  15. Special Relativity
    15.1 Relativity
    15.2 Galilean Relativity
    15.3 The Postulates of Special Relativity
    15.4 The Relativity of Time; Time Dilation
    15.5 Length Contraction
    15.6 The Lorentz Transformation
    15.7 The Relativistic Velocity-Addition Formula
    15.8 Four-Dimensional Space-Time; Four-Vectors
    15.9 The Invariant Scalar Product
    15.10 The Light Cone
    15.11 The Quotient Rule and Doppler Effect
    15.12 Mass, Four-Velocity, and Four-Momentum
    15.13 Energy, the Fourth Component of Momentum
    15.14 Collisions
    15.15 Force in Relativity
    15.16 Massless Particles; the Photon
    15.17 Tensors
    15.18 Electrodynamics and Relativity
    15.19 Problems for Chapters 15
  16. Continuum Mechanics
    16.1 Transverse Motion of a Taut String
    16.2 The Wave Equation
    16.3  Boundary Conditions; Waves on a Finite String
    16.4 The Three-Dimensional Wave Equation
    16.5 Volume and Surface Forces
    16.6 Stress and Strain: the Elastic Moduli
    16.7 The Stress Tensor
    16.8 The Strain Tensor for a Solid
    16.9 Relation between Stress and Strain: Hooke’s Law
    16.10 The Equation of Motion for an Elastic Solid
    16.11 Longitudinal and Transverse Waves in a Solid
    16.12 Fluids: Description of the Motion
    16.13 Waves in a Fluid
    16.14 Problems for Chapter 16

Appendix: Diagonalizing Real Symmetric Matrices

Errata for the 3rd printing

*Page 91, line 4 of second paragraph: (1571□630) should read (1571-1630).

*Page 166, Figure 5.3(b): The label τ on the horizontal axis needs to move about 3 mm to the right to its tick mark. (This was correct in the first printing.)

*Page 362, Problem 9.13: “is well approximated by tan α = ” should read

“is given by sin α = ”

*Page 550, line 2 of the text: Put a dot over the q in ∂qi.


“A superb text. The clarity and readability of the book is so much better than anything else on the market, that I confidently predict this book will soon be the most widely used book on the subject in all American universities, and probably Canadian and European universities also. I judge it to be at least ten times better, maybe more, than the other two popular classical mechanics books on the market right now, the book by Fowles, which students say is too terse to understand, and the book by Marion and Thornton, which students say is so wordy and lengthy that they feel quickly lost.”
-American Journal of Physics

“I taught this same course several times using a different, but well known, textbook. In my estimation, Taylor’s book is far superior. It is very sensibly organized, and can be read without hopping back and forth between sections or chapters. The introduction of variational principles and Lagrangian mechanics is seamless, and conducted fairly early on. The students grasped it much more quickly than I anticipated…Kudos to Taylor.”
-Michael Cavagnero, University of Kentucky

“I expect to use Professor Taylor’s book at every opportunity. It is a fabulous example of clarity and precision – one of my very favorite physics texts.”
-Ben Newling, University of New Brunswick

“The book is excellent. The core of a truly superb mechanics course is covered in Taylor’s text. I, personally, want this book now.”
-Robert Pompi, State University of New York, Binghamton

“Taylor’s book is unique among classical mechanics texts. It comprehensively covers the field at the Sophomore/Junior level. At the same time, it is immensely readable, a quality that comparable texts lack.”
-Jonathan Friedman, Amherst College

“Taylor’s Classical Mechanics is an excellent compromise between Marion, which contains too much material explained in too much detail for my tastes, and Fowles, which is much too terse. It is accessible for strong second-semester sophomores and is probably about right for first-semester juniors. The computer exercises in the end-of-chapter problems are particularly welcome.”
-Alma C. Zook, Pomona College

“I will never sell this book. When I’m a strict, bitter old professor, it will be Classical Mechanics by John R. Taylor that I will remember as the book that renewed my love for such a beautiful subject.”
-Dmitry, Student of Mathematics and Physics at University of Waterloo

John R. Taylor University of Colorado

John Taylor received his B.A. in math from Cambridge University in 1960 and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Berkeley in 1963. He is professor emeritus of physics and Presidential Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the author of some 40 articles in research journals; a book, Classical Mechanics; and three other textbooks, one of which, An Introduction to Error Analysis, has been translated into eleven foreign languages. He received a Distinguished Service Citation from the American Association of Physics Teachers and was named Colorado Professor of the Year in 1989. His television series Physics for Fun won an Emmy Award in 1990. He retired in 2005 and now lives in Washington, D.C.

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