Proceedings PaperThe eikonal function: the commom concept in ray optics and particle mechanics
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The habit of teaching the movements of masses first, and propagation of light later, as an electromagnetic phenomenon was widespread. Looking further back into the history of physics, however, we see earlier the concepts for understanding light rays, and later their successful application to particle trajectories, leading to the highly developed celestial mechanics towards the end of the 19th century. And then, 1905, Karl Schwarzschild transferred the technique of `canonical coordinates,' named so by C.G.J. Jacobi in 1837, back to light rays in imaging systems. I would like to point to the chief steps in the evolution. The learning process for handling both particle and wave propagation aspects continues up to our time: Richard Feynman 1918 - 1988. We may judge each contribution: whether it opens our mind to a unifying theory, or whether it hardens partial understanding. And we can notice where the understanding of light propagation led the evolution, and how the theory for movement of masses caught up.