Course materials for ‘Introduction to Optics’

These are the course materials for the Introduction to Optics course I taught at Dartmouth College, Fall 2017. In varying degrees, the materials are evolved from previous years’ content by Prof. Kevin Wright. Included are lecture notes, lecture slides, homework sets, exams, and quizzes. The syllabus is found here.

Individual documents are available below. Alternatively, the entire set may be cloned or forked from my github repository.

This course is mostly an introduction to classical optics, encompassing the theory of electromagnetic waves, optical systems, polarization, diffraction, interference, and Fourier transform methods. Also discussed, are the consequences of the dual wave/particle nature of light, and how to treat light as if composed of rays (geometric optics) or waves (physical optics). More advanced topics are touched on throughout the course, as well as discussion of the underlying principles for several modern optical technologies and physical phenomena.

Unit Topic Notes Slides Homework Exam/Quiz
1 Electromagnetic Waves PDF PDF | pptx HW1 Quiz 1
2 Interaction with Matter PDF PDF | pptx HW2
3 Ray Optics PDF PDF | pptx HW3 Exam 1 | solns
4 Superposition of Waves PDF PDF | pptx HW4
5 Polarization PDF PDF | pptx HW5 Quiz 2
6 Interference PDF PDF | pptx HW6 Exam 2 | solns
7 Diffraction PDF PDF | pptx HW7
8 Fourier Optics PDF PDF | pptx HW8
9 Modern Optics PDF | pptx Exam 3 | solns

(header image credit: N.A.Sharp, NOAO/NSO/Kitt Peak FTS/AURA/NSF)


  1. Morgan Bronson

    Hi, I took your course in optics at Dartmouth in fall of 2017 and just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it. There was a question on the final exam that asked us to use a Fourier to unblur a distorted image. That question actually made me learn something and I’m thoroughly happy I took the course with you. I actualy use what I learned at my new job even though I (sadly) don’t work in physics. I just wanted to say thanks for actually getting me to learn something, (even though I skipped class a lot) you were an amazing teacher and I wish you the best in you’re future academic (or commercial) endeavors.

    • Hi Morgan! Congratulations on the new position! I certainly wish all the best for your career, no matter how you steer it, and trust your excellence will be easily noticed and rewarded.

      And thank you for the kind feedback. If you’ve found something of the course to stick with you and be useful in some way, I couldn’t be more pleased.

      Keep rowing!

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