In a classic paper that may be regarded as the starting point of polarization optics, G. G. Stokes [Trans. Cambridge Philos. Soc.9, 399 (1852)] presented a theorem according to which any light beam is equivalent to the sum of two light beams, one of which is completely polarized and the other completely unpolarized. We show that Stokes' proof of this theorem is flawed. We present a condition for the theorem to be valid.
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