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Numerical calculations are presented on both equilibrium states and switching processes of surface‐stabilized ferroelectric liquid crystal cells. Defect mediated switching by Bloch walls and by disclination lines is studied in particular. Our examinations are based on an idealized bookshelf configuration of the molecules with fixed tilt angle of the director. Numerical solutions for the scalar fields both of the director twist angle and the electric potential have been determined in two spatial dimensions, assuming the fields to be constant along the third dimension. In the bulk we employ the full Frank–Oseen energy (i.e., no one‐constant approximation) with electric terms added represented by a uniaxial dielectric tensor and the spontaneous polarization. On the surface the director is anchored by a Rapini–Papoular potential with medium anchoring strength. The calculations were performed in high precision with a multigrid method on an adaptive grid. © 1996 American Institute of Physics.