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Rays, Waves and Photons

A compendium of foundations and emerging technologies of pure and applied optics
William L Wolfe


Rays Waves and Photons presents the foundational concepts of optical science. Written by subject, each topic is presented in a standalone chapter with a brief historical foundation, current developments, and future predictions. With non-technical language, this book provides accessible content with terms, concepts and definitions, a glossary, and appendices to enhance the reader's experience. More than 40 subjects are discussed, including optical design, lenses, cameras, microscopes, telescopes, lasers, fibers, missiles, autonomous cars and remote sensing. This book will provide a useful resource for students, teachers, professionals, and general audiences interested in the complexity of optical phenomena and devices.

Key Features

  • Provides foundations of the knowledge of light and its many applications
  • Uses simplified language for non-specialists
  • Terms and definitions are provided throughout, including a glossary

About Editors

William L Wolfe is a Professor Emeritus at the James C Wyant College of Optical Sciences. He monitored some 50 students and did research there for 25 years before retirement. His career in optics spans more than 60 years in government, industry, and academia.

Table of Contents


Hardback ISBN: 9780750326100

Ebook ISBN: 9780750326124

DOI: 10.1088/978-0-7503-2612-4

Publisher: Institute of Physics Publishing


Photons have a dual nature, but this book is even more multifaceted: part textbook, part mini-encyclopedia, part memoir, part history book and part not sure what. The 45 chapters cover topics across optics and photonics, in a nontechnical manner and using an often-humorous grandfatherly voice. Having worked in the field for more than 60 years, the author provides first-person historical perspectives on some of the more recent topics, relying on original sources for the rest. The choice of topics is driven by the author's personal interests, focused on areas where he has the deepest expertise and the most first-person knowledge.

The illustrations include color photos of modern devices, along with old-fashioned diagrams (from original patent filings). A glossary and an illustrated bibliographic list are also included. An index would have been handy, as each chapter contains multiple short entries, while some topics are distributed across several chapters.

The book is a pleasure to read, highly informative and quite fun. Even though the book lacks problems and exercises, it could still serve as an introductory textbook—mainly to awaken the interest of young students via its friendly and accessible writing. For the professional looking for some work-related downtime, this is a book to curl up with.

Bogdan Hoanca, University of Alaska Anchorage, USA. 2021 Optics & Photonics News The Optical Society (USA)

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