Maxwell’s Equations and Electromagnetics after 150 Years

By Weng Cho Chew

Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL

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Maxwell’s equations have been around for over 150 years since its inception. But due to their enduring legacy, their importance has not diminished over the years. In fact, electromagnetic theory finds applications in increasing number of areas and relationship to deeper mathematics. For instance, electromagnetics is important for quantum information, quantum optics, and increasingly being used in photonic and bio technologies.

An amazing feature of Maxwell’s equations is their validity from subatomic length scale to galactic length scale. Consequently, they are valid over a vast frequency range with diverse wavelengths. Furthermore, they are also valid in classical as well as in quantum electromagnetics.

Because of the highly predictive value of Maxwell’s equations, there has been a quest for their efficient and accurate solutions. Various methods to solve Maxwell’s equations have been developed since the dawn of their discovery. With the advent of computers, the need for more accurate and robust solutions does not diminish.

In this presentation will discuss the history of different solution methods in electromagnetic theory, ranging from approximate methods, to fast numerical methods, namely, the computational electromagnetics methods. We will also discuss future directions in this area.


Weng Cho Chew W.C. Chew received all his degrees from MIT. His research interests is in wave and field physics, specializing in fast algorithms in computational electromagnetics in the last 20 years. After graduating from MIT in 1980, he worked at Schlumberger-Doll Research. In 1985, he joined U Illinois Urbana-Champaign, was the director of the Electromagnetics Lab at UIUC from 1995-2007. During 2000-2005, he was the Founder Professor at UIUC, 2005- 2009, the Y.T. Lo Chair Professor, and since 2013, the Fisher Distinguished Professor. During 2007-2011, he served as the Dean of Engineering at The University of Hong Kong. He has authored and co-authored three books, over 400 journal papers, and over 500 conference papers. He is a fellow of various societies, and an ISI highly cited author. In 2008, he received the CT Tai Distinguished Educator Award from IEEE AP-S, in 2013, elected to the National Academy of Engineering and in 2015, ACES Computational Electromagnetics Award.

Sponsored by

IEEE MTT-S Purdue Chapter.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Weng Cho Chew (2016), "Maxwell’s Equations and Electromagnetics after 150 Years,"

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