This book is an introduction to the remarkable work of Vaughan Jones and Victor Vassiliev on knot and link invariants and its recent modifications and generalizations, including a mathematical treatment of Jones-Witten invariants. It emphasizes the geometric aspects of the theory and treats topics such as braids, homeomorphisms of surfaces, surgery of 3-manifolds (Kirby calculus), and branched coverings. This attractive geometric material, interesting in itself yet not previously gathered in book form, constitutes the basis of the last two chapters, where the Jones-Witten invariants are constructed via the rigorous skein algebra approach (mainly due to the Saint Petersburg school).
Unlike several recent monographs, where all of these invariants are introduced by using the sophisticated abstract algebra of quantum groups and representation theory, the mathematical prerequisites are minimal in this book. Numerous figures and problems make it suitable as a course text and for self-study.