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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Preface to the fourth edition


We use optics overwhelmingly in our everyday life: in art and sciences, in modern communications and medical technology, to name just a few fields. This is because 90% of the information we receive is visual. The main purpose of this book is to communicate our enthusiasm for optics, as a subject both practical and aesthetic, and standing on a solid theoretical basis.

We were very pleased to be invited by the publishers to update Optical Physics for a fourth edition. The first edition appeared in 1969, a decade after the construction of the first lasers, which created a renaissance in optics that is still continuing. That edition was strongly influenced by the work of Henry Lipson (1910–1991), based on the analogy between X-ray crystallography and optical Fraunhofer diffraction in the Fourier transform relationship realized by Max von Laue in the 1930s. The text was illustrated with many photographs taken with the optical diffractometers that Henry and his colleagues built as ‘analogue computers’ for solving crystallographic problems. Henry wrote much of the first and second editions, and was involved in planning the third edition, but did not live to see its publication. In the later editions, we have continued the tradition of illustrating the principles of physical optics with photographs taken in the laboratory, both by ourselves and by our students, and hope that readers will be encouraged to carry out and further develop these experiments themselves.

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