A bit more photon-specific than optics.
The knowledge that light is polarized precedes the knowledge of the existence of the photon, see polarization of light for the classical point of view.
The polarization state and how it can be decomposed into different modes can be well visualized with the Poincaré sphere.
One key idea about photon polarization is that it carries angular momentum. Therefore, when an electron changes orbitals in the Schrödinger equation solution for the hydrogen atom, the angular momentum (as well as energy) change is carried out by the polarization of the photon!
polarization.com/history/history.html is a good page.
People were a bit confused when experiments started to show that light might be polarized. How could a wave that propages through a 3D homgenous material like luminiferous aether have polarization?? Light would presumably be understood to be analogous to a sound wave in 3D medium, which cannot have polarization. This was before Maxwell's equations, in the early 19th century, so there was no way to know.
A device that modifies photon polarization.
As mentioned at Video "Quantum Mechanics 9b - Photon Spin and Schrodinger's Cat II by ViaScience (2013)", it can be modelled as a bra.
Good overgrown section in the middle of Fresnel's biography: en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Augustin-Jean_Fresnel&oldid=1064236740#Historical_context:_From_Newton_to_Biot.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the only known way to generate polarized light was with a calcite crystal. In 1808, using a calcite crystal, Malus discovered that natural incident light became polarized when it was reflected by a glass surface, and that the light reflected close to an angle of incidence of 57° could be extinguished when viewed through the crystal. He then proposed that natural light consisted of the s- and p-polarizations, which were perpendicular to each other.
Matches the quantum superposition probability proportional to the square law. Poor Étienne-Louis Malus, who died so much before this was found.
In it, each of the six sides has a clear and simple to understand photon polarization state, either of:
- diagonal up/diagonal down
- rotation clockwise/counterclockwise
The sphere clearly suggests for example that a rotational or diagonal polarizations are the combination of left/right with the correct phase. This is clearly explained at: Video "Quantum Mechanics 9b - Photon Spin and Schrodinger's Cat II by ViaScience (2013)".
An optical multiplexer!
For example, that is how most modern microscopes are prototyped, see for example Video "Two Photon Microscopy by Nemonic NeuroNex (2019)".