The First Nonlinear Optical Experiment of 1926, Measuring Sensitivity Threshold of the Human Eye to Feeble Light (1933) and Statistical Structure of Feeble-Light Interference by the Human Eye (Sergei Ivanovich Vavilov)

  • Svetlana G. LukishovaEmail author
Part of the Springer Series in Optical Sciences book series (SSOS, volume 217)


This chapter is dedicated to the scientific contributions to photonics of the legendary figure in the history of the Soviet/Russian science, Sergei Ivanovich Vavilov (1891–1951). Among his key contributions to photonics are: (1) first experimental observation of nonlinear optical effect (1926), coining the terminology “nonlinear medium” in optics, “nonlinear interferometry” (1930), and “nonlinear optics” (1944); (2) observation of quantum fluctuations of light by the human eye excluding physiological fluctuations (measuring a sensitivity threshold of the human eye to the feeble light) (1933–1942). Statistical structure of interference pattern was studied by Vavilov in light fleshes at mean photon numbers close to the human eye sensitivity threshold. Independent fluctuations in coherent split beams were also observed; (3) decisive contributions to the discovery of Vavilov-Čerenkov radiation known in the West as Čerenkov radiation; (4) transferring the field of luminescence to the scientific platform, starting from its definition, introducing the concept of fluorescence quantum yield, polarized fluorescence and Vavilov’s luminescent law. The chapter consists of five sections. In the first Sect. (14.1) by Svetlana G. Lukishova a detailed analysis of Vavilov’s contribution to science of light is provided including his organizing and administrative work at the State level as well as some biographical material. On editor selection, Sects. 14.214.4 contain translations into English of some of his publications and comments. Section 14.5 contains original publication of Vavilov et al. in English.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Institute of Optics, University of RochesterRochesterUSA

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