Written for the Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics (to be published in 2000 by Mac Millan and the Institute of Physics Publishing) (astro-ph/000602)
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Jane C. Charlton and Christopher W. Churchill

The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802

Abstract. We briefly review, at a level appropriate for graduate students and non-specialists, the field of quasar absorption lines (QALs). Emphasis is on the intervening absorbers. We present the anatomy of a quasar spectrum due to various classes of intervening absorption systems, and a brief historical review of each absorber class (Lyman-alpha forest and Lyman limit systems, and metal-line and damped Lyman-alpha absorbers). We also provide several heuristic examples on how the physical properties of both the intergalactic medium and the gaseous environments associated with earlier epoch galaxies can be inferred from QALs. The evolution of these environments from z = 4 are discussed.

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