I survey the theoretical foundations of the slowly-but-surely emerging field of multiple scattering lidar, which has already found applications in atmospheric and cryospheric optics that I also discuss. In multiple scattering lidar, returned pulses are stretched far beyond recognition, and there is no longer a one-to-one connection between range and return-trip timing. Moreover, one can exploit the radial profile of the diffuse radiance field excited by the laser source that, by its very nature, is highly concentrated in space and collimated in direction. One needs, however, a new class of lidar equations to explore this new phenomenology. A very useful set is derived from radiative diffusion theory, which is found at the opposite asymptotic limit of radiative transfer theory than the conventional (single-scattering) limit used to derive the standard lidar equation. In particular, one can use it to show that, even if the simple time-of-flight-to-range connection is irretrievably lost, multiply-scattered lidar light can be used to restore a unique profiling capability with coarser resolution but much deeper penetration into a wide variety of optical thick media in nature. Several new applications are proposed, including a laser bathymetry technique that should work for highly turbid coastal waters.