65 Years of “Born and Wolf”

Patricia Daukantas

Generations of physical scientists have made Principles of Optics their standard reference in the field—but the book’s authors faced challenges before its first publication.

Left: Max Born reading in his office (undated photo). Right: Emil Wolf in 1959, the year of the publication of the first edition of Principles of Optics. [AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Segrè Collection / Courtesy of Bruno Wolf]

Habent sua fata libelli. The Nobel laureate Max Born once quoted the venerable Latin maxim—“Books have their destinies”—when telling an audience of young researchers about a book he and a coauthor had just finished. Little did he know that the new volume would grow into an oft-cited classic—or that it would have an origin story as compelling as its contents.

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