Page:A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism - Volume 1.djvu/138

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95.] In the preceding chapter we have calculated the potential function and investigated its properties on the hypothesis that there is a direct action at a distance between electrified bodies, which is the resultant of the direct actions between the various electrified parts of the bodies.

If we call this the direct method of investigation, the inverse method will consist in assuming that the potential is a function characterised by properties the same as those which we have already established, and investigating the form of the function.

In the direct method the potential is calculated from the distribution of electricity by a process of integration, and is found to satisfy certain partial differential equations. In the inverse method the partial differential equations are supposed given, and we have to find the potential and the distribution of electricity.

It is only in problems in which the distribution of electricity is given that the direct method can be used. When we have to find the distribution on a conductor we must make use of the inverse method.

We have now to shew that the inverse method leads in every case to a determinate result, and to establish certain general theorems deduced from Poisson's partial differential equation

The mathematical ideas expressed by this equation are of a different kind from those expressed by the equation


In the differential equation we express that the values of the second derivatives of V in the neighbourhood of any point, and