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The scattering from a thin conducting wire is computed by representing the induced current as a sum of driven and resonant terms, the latter with complex propagation constant mk perturbed from its free space value k. Using Galerkin’s method, the central problem of determining m reduces to a minimization problem. For the limiting cases of highly conducting or highly absorbing wires simplifications are found. For short wires the Rayleigh cross sections are obtained; for longer wires with high absorption, accurate cross section formulas are constructed based on the unperturbed infinite wire currents. For general wire lengths and conductivities the method is computationally very simple and results are in excellent agreement with independent computations of both current and far field quantities, as well as experimental measurements. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.