Interferometry: From Hooke till Date

  • Rajpal S. SirohiEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Springer Proceedings in Physics book series (SPPHY, volume 194)


Coloured fringes seen in white light when the two glass plates in near contact enclose a very small angle were first observed by Boyle and independently by Hooke in the later part of 17th century and the explanation given using wave theory of light could be taken as the starting point of optical interferometry. Wave theory used by Boyle and Hooke, and in much refined form as proposed by Huygens in 1690 remained unaccepted until Young in 1801 demonstrated the interference between two waves by a very simple but ingenious way. Fizeau (Acad Sci 66:429, 1862 [1]) carried out experiments with a pair of plates using Na light and showed that the fringe pattern disappears when a certain distance separates the plates, essentially sowing the seeds for interference spectroscopy. Michelson in 1891 carried out measurement of visibility of fringes as a function of path difference between the two beams derived from various sources and showed that except for cadmium, other spectral lines showed the variation in visibility. Fizeau is also accredited to have suggested in 1868 that interferometry may be used for measuring stellar dimensions: the idea being taken forward by Michelson by inventing stellar interferometer. The manuscript presents the chronology of development in interferometry. Some current applications may also be highlighted.



To write the history of any subject is a very demanding task and it has not been easy to write the developments in the field of interferometry. I have used more space in the early part of the history and have very briefly gone over the developments after the advent of laser. I have drawn material from various sources, books [19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24], journals, magazines, Net etc. I would like to acknowledge all these media.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsTezpur UniversityTezpurIndia

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