Course of Theoretical Physics

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Course of Theoretical Physics
Landau & Lifshitz - Volume 1 - Mechanics.jpg
Cover of the first volume, Mechanics (Russian Edition)
Author Lev Landau (Vol. 1–3, 5–8)
Evgeny Lifshitz (Vol. 1–10)
Vladimir Berestetskii (Vol. 4)
Lev Pitaevskii (Vol. 4, 9–10)
Country Soviet Union
Language Russian, English
Subject Physics
Genre Textbook
Publisher Russian: Fizmatgiz, Fizmatlit, Nauka
English: Addison-Wesley, Butterworth-Heinemann, Pergamon Press

The Course of Theoretical Physics is a ten-volume series of books covering theoretical physics that was initiated by Lev Landau and written in collaboration with his student Evgeny Lifshitz starting in the late 1930s.

It is said that Landau composed much of the series in his head while in an NKVD prison in 1938-1939.[1] However, almost all of the actual writing of the early volumes was done by Lifshitz, giving rise to the witticism, "not a word of Landau and not a thought of Lifshitz".[2] The first eight volumes were finished in the 1950s, written in Russian and translated into English in the late 1950s by John Stewart Bell, together with John Bradbury Sykes, M. J. Kearsley, and W. H. Reid. The last two volumes were written in the early 1980s. Vladimir Berestetskii and Lev Pitaevskii also contributed to the series. The series is often referred to as "Landau and Lifshitz", "Landafshitz" (Russian: "Ландафшиц"),[3][4] or "Lanlifshitz" (Russian: "Ланлифшиц") in informal settings.


The presentation of material is advanced and typically considered suitable for graduate-level study.[5][6] Despite this specialized character, it is estimated that a million volumes of the Course were sold by 2005.[7]

The series has been called "renowned" in Science and "celebrated" in American Scientist.[8][9] A note in Mathematical Reviews states, "The usefulness and the success of this course have been proved by the great number of successive editions in Russian, English, French, German and other languages."[9] At a centenary celebration of Landau's career, it was observed that the Course had shown "unprecedented longevity."[10]

In 1962, Landau and Lifshitz were awarded the Lenin Prize for their work on the Course. This was the first occasion on which the Lenin Prize had been awarded for the teaching of physics.[7]

English editions[edit]

Note that reprints and revised editions are not listed.

Volume 1

Covers classical mechanics without special or general relativity, in the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalisms.

Volume 2

Covers relativistic mechanics of particles, and classical field theory for fields, specifically special relativity and electromagnetism, general relativity and gravitation.

Volume 3

Covers quantum mechanics without special relativity.

Volume 4

The original edition was two books, labelled part 1 and part 2. The first had general aspects of relativistic quantum mechanics and relativistic quantum field theory, leading onto quantum electrodynamics. The second continued on with quantum electrodynamics and what was then known about the strong and weak interactions. These books were published in the early 1970s, at a time when the strong and weak forces were still not well understood. In the second edition, the corresponding sections were scrapped and replaced with more topics in the well-established quantum electrodynamics, and the two parts were unified into one, thus providing a one-volume exposition on relativistic quantum field theory with the electromagnetic interaction as the prototype of a quantum field theory.

Volume 5

Covers general statistical mechanics and thermodynamics and applications, including chemical reactions, phase transitions, and condensed matter physics.

Volume 6

Covers fluid mechanics in a condensed but varied exposition, from ideal to viscous fluids, includes a chapter on relativistic fluid mechanics, and another on superfluids.

Volume 7

Covers elasticity theory of solids, including viscous solids, vibrations and waves in crystals with dislocations, and a chapter on the mechanics of liquid crystals.

Volume 8

Covers electromagnetism in materials, includes a variety of topics in condensed matter physics, a chapter on magnetohydrodynamics, and another on nonlinear optics.

Volume 9

Builds from the original statistical physics book; more applications to condensed matter theory.

Volume 10

Presents various applications of kinetic theory to condensed matter theory, on metals, insulators, and phase transitions.


  1. ^ Richard Rhodes (1995). Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb. Simon & Schuster. p. 33. 
  2. ^ Anton Z. Capri (2007). "From Quanta to Quarks: More Anecdotal History of Physics". World Scientific: 112. 
  3. ^ "О простоте". 2006-06-18. 
  4. ^ "Форум-ФРТК-МФТИ: чем ландафшиц не понравился?". 2011-02-18. 
  5. ^ "A Physics Book List". Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  6. ^ Aboites, Vicente (2005-11-01). "Feynman: The Lectures and the Man". Physics Today. 58 (11): 12–12. doi:10.1063/1.4796780. ISSN 0031-9228. 
  7. ^ a b Hall, Karl (2005). ""Think Less about Foundations": A Short Course on Landau and Lifshitz's Course of Theoretical Physics". In Kaiser, David. Pedagogy and the Practice of Science: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press. pp. 253–286. ISBN 9780262112888. 
  8. ^ Livingston, Katherine (1990-08-03). "Book reviews". Science. 249 (4968): 571–572. Bibcode:1990Sci...249..571C. doi:10.1126/science.249.4968.571. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17735292. 
  9. ^ a b "Landau and Lifshitz reviews". MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  10. ^ Lubkin, Gloria B. (2009). "Centenary of Lev Landau". American Physical Society. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 

External links[edit]