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The phase retrieval problem arises in applications of electromagnetic theory in which wave phase is apparently lost or impractical to measure and only intensity data are available. The mathematics of the problem provides unusual insights into the nature of electromagnetic fields. The theory is reviewed and illustrated. The basic issue of the phase retrieval problem, stated for a one-dimensional field, is that although a unique Fourier transform relation exists between the field in the Fraunhofer plane and the field in the object plane, the infinite fold phase ambiguity which appears as the result of the possibilities of conjugating the zeros of implies that additional information or processing of the object wave must be available to obtain the phase. Among the possible solutions which are described are reference beam addition, apodization and the use of multiple intensity distributions, permitting the use of iterative computational procedures in some applications.