An inverse problem in science is the process of calculating from a set of observations the causal factors that produced them: for example, calculating an image in computer tomography, source reconstructing in acoustics, or calculating the density of the Earth from measurements of its gravity field.
It is called an inverse problem because it starts with the results and then calculates the causes. This is the inverse of a forward problem, which starts with the causes and then calculates the results.
Inverse problems are some of the most important mathematical problems in science and mathematics because they tell us about parameters that we cannot directly observe. They have wide application in optics, radar, acoustics, communication theory, signal processing, medical imaging, computer vision, geophysics, oceanography, astronomy, remote sensing, natural language processing, machine learning, nondestructive testing, and many other fields.
The field of inverse problems was first discovered and introduced by Soviet-Armenian physicist, Viktor Ambartsumian.〔http://ambartsumian.ru/en/papers/epilogue-ambartsumian’-s-paper/〕〔http://www.springerlink.com/content/7464423747103122/〕
While still a student, Ambartsumian thoroughly studied the theory of atomic structure, the formation of energy levels, and the Schrödinger equation and its properties, and when he mastered the theory of eigenvalues of differential equations, he pointed out the apparent analogy between discrete energy levels and the eigenvalues of differential equations. He then asked: given a family of eigenvalues, is it possible to find the form of the equations whose eigenvalues they are? Essentially Ambartsumian was examining the inverse Sturm–Liouville problem, which dealt with determining the equations of a vibrating string. This paper was published in 1929 in the German physics journal ''Zeitschrift für Physik'' and remained in obscurity for a rather long time. Describing this situation after many decades, Ambartsumian said, "If an astronomer publishes an article with a mathematical content in a physics journal, then the most likely thing that will happen to it is oblivion."
Nonetheless, toward the end of the Second World War, this article, written by the 20-year-old Ambartsumian, was found by Swedish mathematicians and formed the starting point for a whole area of research on inverse problems, becoming the foundation of an entire discipline.
抄文引用元・出典: フリー百科事典『 ウィキペディア（Wikipedia）』