1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Good textbook on optics

  1. Jan 29, 2014 #1

    I have never formally studied optics, and am looking to do so. I have looked around a little bit, and I have the impression that there are not really any "go-to" textbooks on the subject that everyone uses.

    Does anyone have any recommendations for a good (classical) optics textbook?

    I mostly learn by going through derivations, so I would prefer something with a decent amount of mathematical rigor (I mostly say this because I have been told that there are a few heavily qualitative books out there that almost avoid using math - I do not want one of these). However, if a bit of that rigor is sacrificed for clarity of explanation, like a Griffiths book, that would be still be great.

    It also wouldn't surprise me if there is a good textbook on the subject that is usually not used as a course textbook, but is still extremely useful and covers the material in a way that makes it clear - like an optics analogue of Fermi's "Thermodynamics". This would be fantastic, if anyone knows of something like this.

    Thanks very much for any help that you can give.

    -HJ Farnsworth
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2014 #2
  4. Mar 1, 2014 #3
    It's been a long time since you posed the question but, in my opinion a very nice text in classical optics is Jenkins and White's "Fundamentals of Optics", 4th edition. You can find a used copy for as little as 0,01$ (you are basically paying only the shipping fee - as of now the cheapest copy on Amazon's Marketplace is less than five bucks) and, albeit being conceived in the '30s (the first edition was printed in 1937, while the fourth came out in 1976 - I have the 1981 International Edition by McGrawHill) is an astonishingly good textbook.
    Oh, wait, maybe it's good because it's old. <grin>

    I remember that many years ago I chose Pedrotti and Pedrotti's "Introduction to Optics" over Jenkins White, because the book looked old and outdated to me. I couldn't possibly be more wrong.
    I decided to write this answer because I am re-reading J-W right in these days and I cannot stop noticing how good it is.

    As far as classical optics go, this is one must have book.
    It is divided in three parts: I Geometrical Optics (pp. 1-212), II Wave Optics (pp. 213-608) and III Quantum Optics (pp.609-726).

    If you prefer a more modern approach, I second the above poster's suggestions for "The Light Fantastic" and the surprisingly compact introduction by Fowles (the wizard of synthesis).
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2014
  5. Mar 1, 2014 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Another classic is: Born and Wolf, Principles of Optics.
  6. Mar 1, 2014 #5
    @vanhees71, sure. Born and Wolf is THE Bible of optics, but it's far from being an introductory text. On the contrary is the top text for a graduate, like Jackson's is in EM and Goldstein in Mechanics. Probably not the best book to start with.
  7. Mar 2, 2014 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Ok, that may be true.
  8. Mar 2, 2014 #7
    Thanks for all of the responses everyone. A couple of weeks ago I bought Fowles, and have started studying it in my spare time. It's a pretty good textbook so far, I am quite happy with it.

    That being said, your very high review of Jenkins and White, SredniVashtar, has made me excited to check it out (and the cheap price tag that you mentioned didn't hurt either), so I am going to get a copy of that as well!

    Thanks very much for the advice.

    -HJ Farnsworth
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted