Calculation of the scalar diffraction field over the entire space from a given field over a surface is an important problem in computer generated holography. A straightforward approach to compute the diffraction field from field samples given on a surface is to superpose the emanated fields from each such sample. In this approach, possible mutual interactions between the fields at these samples are omitted and the calculated field may be significantly in error. In the proposed diffraction calculation algorithm, mutual interactions are taken into consideration, and thus the exact diffraction field can be calculated. The algorithm is based on posing the problem as the inverse of a problem whose formulation is straightforward. The problem is then solved by a signal decomposition approach. The computational cost of the proposed method is high, but it yields the exact scalar diffraction field over the entire space from the data on a surface. (C) 2011 Published by Elsevier B.V.