The conventional solutions to the problem of normally incident light transmission through homogeneous, birefringent, nonoptically active, nonabsorbing, crystalline plate are not exact. When it is treated as a boundary value problem in electromagnetic field theory, exact expressions are obtained for the retardation or phase difference and the electric field amplitude ratio. The two solutions differ in some interesting ways that become of substantial importance in the examination of laser light. The nature of the exact solutions is examined in detail and numerical comparisons with the conventional solutions are given for the cases of calcite and quartz, neglecting the optical activity of crystalline quartz. For quartz it is shown that one can obtain a quarter-wave plate by using any one of a number of different crystal thicknesses. The application of wave plates in the investigation of elliptically polarized light is briefly discussed. For small angles of incidence, the effects to be expected for light which is obliquely incident on the plate surface are investigated.
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