Illumination of a liquid culture of Synechococcus 6301 at high photon flux density (PFD) elicits a time-dependent first-order exponential decline in relative quantum yield of photosynthetic O2 evolution to some steady-state value. Full photosynthetic activity is restored, also as a time-dependent first-order process, when the photoinhibited culture is transferred to lower PFD. Temperature and irradiation dependence of photoinhibition were measured under conditions which precluded simultaneous recovery from photoinhibition. Also the temperature and irradiation dependence of recovery from photoinhibition were determined under conditions which precluded simultaneous photoinhibition. Kinetics of photoinhibition were sensitive to PFD but relatively independent of temperature. Kinetics of recovery saturated at low PFD but were very temperature dependent at all PFDs. A general equation can be written to predict the change in photosynthetic activity versus time when a cell culture is placed at photoinhibitory PFD, assuming that first-order exponential photoinhibition and first-order exponential recovery from photoinhibition occur simultaneously. The equation can be made specific if the values of the kinetic constant for photoinhibition and for recovery from photoinhibition are known for the particular environmental conditions to which the cells are exposed. These values can be obtained by independently measuring the kinetics of photoinhibition without simultaneous recovery and the kinetics of recovery without simultaneous photoinhibition. The curve of photosynthetic activity versus time for cells placed at high PFD, which is predicted by this equation, precisely fits the experimentally determined kinetics of photoinhibition. This correlation remains valid over a wide range of temperatures and PFDs. Identical results were obtained with the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus 7002. We conclude that the extent of net photoinhibition over a broad range of conditions represents a sum of individual rates of simultaneous photoinhibition and recovery from photoinhibition. The results support previous proposals that a protein required for photosystem II activity becomes functionally depleted during photoinhibition because protein synthesis or assembly into the membranes cannot keep up with the rate of its inactivation at excessively high PFDs. We also conclude that photoinhibition and light-dependent chilling sensitivity are manifestations of the same phenomenon.