The last three decades have seen a renaissance in atomic spectroscopy. After many years of important advances in pursuit of its own intellectual goals, the field began a major expansion in the 1950s as urgent demands for spectral data came from industry, the atomic‐energy program, the space program and the defense department. Today, atomic spectroscopy is a modern, active and basic science. Atomic spectroscopists study the effects of collisions, electric and magnetic fields, photoionization, and other interactions between atoms and their environment in ways that would have been impossible or forbiddingly complex just a few years ago. They routinely use such experimental tools as lasers, synchrotron light sources, electron spectrometers, ion traps and fast ion beams (figure 1). They use such theoretical tools such as quantum‐defect theory, many‐body perturbation theory and group theory to study the structure of isolated atoms in greater detail and with greater precision than ever before. An important result of this new work is that atomic spectroscopy has increased its impact on diverse areas of physics as well as on its traditional area of contribution—the study of the electronic structure of atoms.

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