Studies of meson production at threshold in the hadron-hadron interaction began in the fifties when sufficient energies of accelerated protons were available. A strong interdependence between developments in accelerator physics, detector performance and theoretical understanding led to a unique vivid field of physics. Early experiments performed with bubble chambers revealed already typical ingredients of threshold studies, which were superseded by more complete meson production investigations at the nucleon beam facilities TRIUMF, LAMPF, PSI, LEAR and SATURNE. Currently, with the advent of the new cooler rings as IUCF, CELSIUS and COSY the field is entering a new domain of precision and the next step of further progress.
The analysis of this new data in the short range limit permits a more fundamental consideration and a quantitative comparison of the production processes for different mesons in the few-body final states. The interpretation of the data take advantage of the fact that production reactions close-to-threshold are characterized by only a few degrees of freedom between a well defined combination of initial and exit channels. Deviations from predictions of phase-space controlled one-meson-exchange models are indications of new and exciting physics. Precision data on differential cross sections, isospin and spin observables - partly but by no means adequately available - are presently turning up on the horizon. There is work for the next years and excitement of the physics expected. Here we try to give a brief and at the same time comprehensive overview of this field of hadronic threshold production studies.
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Prog.Part.Nucl.Phys. 49 (2002) 1-90