Resonance energy transfer is the primary mechanism for the migration of electronic excitation in the condensed phase. Well-known in the particular context of molecular photochemistry, it is a phenomenon whose much wider prevalence in both natural and synthetic materials has only slowly been appreciated, and for which the fundamental theory and understanding have witnessed major advances in recent years. With the growing to maturity of a robust theoretical foundation, the latest developments have led to a more complete and thorough identification of key principles. The present review first describes the context and general features of energy transfer, then focusing on its electrodynamic, optical, and photophysical characteristics. The particular role the mechanism plays in photosynthetic materials and synthetic analogue polymers is then discussed, followed by a summary of its primarily biological structure determination applications. Lastly, several possible methods are described, by the means of which all-optical switching might be effected through the control and application of resonance energy transfer in suitably fabricated nanostructures.Key words: FRET, Förster energy transfer, photophysics, fluorescence, laser.