Optics is a venerable and important branch of science. Because nearly all the readers of this journal use it in their professional work, and because everyone uses applied optics in daily life, a short history of the subject may be of interest. It will be illustrated by postage stamps; they provide a colorful and fairly complete coverage of the subject. This article follows the format of two similar papers that have appeared in this journal: a postage stamp history of spectroscopy and a postage stamp history of chemistry. The discussion here is chronological except for the placement of physiological optics near the end. Very little will be said about the nature of light, and spectroscopy and electron optics will be omitted entirely. All the stamps are identified in Table I.

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