The phenomenon of light's momentum was first observed in the laboratory at the beginning of the twentieth century, and its potential for manipulating microscopic particles was demonstrated by Ashkin some 70 years later. Since that initial demonstration, and the seminal 1986 paper where a single-beam gradient-force trap was realized, optical trapping has been exploited as both a rich example of physical phenomena and a powerful tool for sensitive measurement. This review outlines the underlying theory of optical traps, and explores many of the physical observations that have been made in such systems. These phenomena include 'optical binding', where trapped objects interact with one another through the trapping light field. We also discuss a number of the applications of 'optical tweezers' across the physical and life sciences, as well as covering some of the issues involved in constructing and using such a tool.