Optics Textbook: Find the Best for Learning & Rigor

In summary: The Eye", is also very good. It is more qualitative but it covers a lot of the material that you are looking for.In summary, I would recommend either Hecht or The Light Fantastic as introductory optics texts.
  • #1
HJ Farnsworth
128
1
Greetings,

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
 
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  • #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years ago I chose Pedrotti and Pedrotti's "Introduction to Optics" over Jenkins White, because the book looked old and outdated to me.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).
 
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  • #4
Another classic is: Born and Wolf, Principles of Optics.
 
  • #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
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
 
  • #8
This is a bit of an old thread, but in case someone comes looking, a free alternative is available here:

https://optics.byu.edu/textbook

I'm an author of the book, so I can't give unbiased assessment of the material (but I have no financial interest as we allow free use). We try to give clear derivations and examples and regularly update the book.

M. Ware
 
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Likes jeeves, yucheng and AndreasC

Related to Optics Textbook: Find the Best for Learning & Rigor

1. What is the purpose of an optics textbook?

An optics textbook is designed to provide students with a thorough understanding of the principles and applications of optics. It covers topics such as light, lenses, mirrors, diffraction, and more. The goal is to help students develop a solid foundation in optics and prepare them for further studies or careers in related fields.

2. How do I choose the best optics textbook for my needs?

Choosing the best optics textbook depends on your level of understanding and the specific topics you want to learn. Look for textbooks that are well-organized, have clear explanations, and include plenty of examples and practice problems. It's also helpful to read reviews and get recommendations from peers or instructors.

3. What is the level of rigor in an optics textbook?

The level of rigor in an optics textbook can vary depending on the intended audience. Some textbooks may be geared towards beginners and have a more basic level of rigor, while others may be targeted towards advanced students and have a higher level of difficulty. It's important to choose a textbook that matches your level of understanding and challenges you appropriately.

4. Are there online resources available to supplement an optics textbook?

Yes, there are many online resources available to supplement an optics textbook. These can include interactive simulations, video lectures, practice problems, and more. It's always helpful to use a variety of resources to enhance your understanding of the subject.

5. Is an optics textbook necessary for learning about optics?

An optics textbook is not the only resource for learning about optics, but it is an essential tool for gaining a comprehensive understanding of the subject. It provides a structured and organized approach to learning, with clear explanations and practice problems to reinforce concepts. However, supplementing with other resources, such as lectures and demonstrations, can also be beneficial.

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