Whither Optical Design?

Until recently, the dimensions of typical optical systems were much greater than optical wavelengths. Specialists in geometrical optics studied refraction using aberrations and rays, and specialists in physical optics studied images using waves, with neither group having much in common with the other. Now, however, optical wavelengths are not considered as short as they used to be. At the same time, there is a lack of people competent in both geometrical and physical optics.We have the tools to tackle challenging and exciting problems of much greater scope and interest than ever before, but fewer and fewer people know how to use these tools. Nearly twenty years ago, Warren Smith wrote an article entitled “The Vanishing Lens Designer;” today, the dwindling number of expert lens designers has become a problem that is even more keenly felt.

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