electrodynamics, study of phenomena associated with charged bodies in motion and varying electric and magnetic fields (see charge; electricity); since a moving charge produces a magnetic field, electrodynamics is concerned with effects such as magnetism, electromagnetic radiation, and electromagnetic induction, including such practical applications as the electric generator and the electric motor. This area of electrodynamics, often known as classical electrodynamics, was first systematically explained by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell. Maxwell's equations, a set of differential equations, describe the phenomena of this area with great generality. A more recent development is quantum electrodynamics, which was formulated to explain the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with matter, to which the laws of the quantum theory apply. The physicists P. A. M. Dirac, W. Heisenberg, and W. Pauli were the pioneers in the formulation of quantum electrodynamics. When the velocities of the charged particles under consideration become comparable with the speed of light, corrections involving the theory of relativity must be made; this branch of the theory is called relativistic electrodynamics. It is applied to phenomena involved with particle accelerators and with electron tubes that are subject to high voltages and carry heavy currents.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.