History of materials science

History of materials science

The history of materials science is the study of how different materials were used as influenced by the history of Earth and the culture of the peoples of the Earth.


The materials used by different cultures in most cases were the only records left for anthropologists to define the civilization. The progressive use of more sophisticated materials showed an innovative divide between peoples. This is partially due to the major material of use in that culture and its associated benefits and drawbacks. Stone Age cultures were limited by which stone could be found in the local area and what could be traded. The use of flint around 300,000 BCE is sometimes considered the beginning of the use of ceramics. The use of polished stone axes marks a significant advance because many more rocks could be used as tools.

The innovation of smelting and casting metals in the Bronze Age started to change the way that cultures developed and interacted with each other. Native metals of copper and gold were reshaped without the use of fire for tools and weapons starting around 5500 BCE. Copper began to be heated and shaped with hammers around 5000 BCE. Melting and casting around 4000 BCE. Metallurgy had its dawn with the reduction of copper from its ore around 3500 BCE. And finally, the first alloy, bronze came into use around 3000 BCE.

In the 10th century BC, Glass production begins in ancient Near East. In the 3rd century BC, Wootz steel, the first crucible steel, is invented in ancient India. In the 1st century BC, Glassblowing techniques flourish in Phoenicia. In the 2nd century AD, steel-making becomes widespread used in Han Dynasty China. In the 4th century, the Iron pillar of Delhi is produced, and remains the oldest surviving example of corrosion-resistant steel.


Wood, bone, stone, and earth are some of the materials which formed the structures of the Roman empire. Certain structures were made possible by the character of the land upon which these structures are built; a volcanic peninsula with stone aggregates and conglomerates containing crystalline material, will produce material which weathers differently from soft, sedimentary rock and silt. That is one of the reasons that the concrete Pantheon of Rome could last for 1850 years. And why the thatched farmhouses of Holland sketched by Rembrandt have long since decayed.

After the thighbone daggers of the early hunter-gatherers were superseded by wood and stone axes, and then by copper, bronze and iron implements of the Roman civilization, more precious materials could then be sought, and gathered together. Thus the medieval goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini could seek and defend the gold which he had to turn into objects of desire for dukes and popes. His "autobiography" contains one of the first descriptions of a metallurgical process.

Middle Ages

In the 8th century, porcelain is invented in Tang Dynasty China, the streets of Baghdad are the first to be paved with tar (derived from petroleum through destructive distillation),Dr. Kasem Ajram (1992). "Miracle of Islamic Science", Appendix B. Knowledge House Publishers. ISBN 0911119434.] and the tin-glazing of ceramics is invented by Arabic chemists and potters in Basra, Iraq. [cite journal |last=Mason |first=Robert B. |title=New Looks at Old Pots: Results of Recent Multidisciplinary Studies of Glazed Ceramics from the Islamic World |journal=Muqarnas: Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture |date=1995 |volume=XII |publisher=Brill Academic Publishers |id=ISBN 9004103147 |pages=1] Geber (Jabir ibn Hayyan) invents artificial pearls, describes the purification of greasy or discoloured pearls and the first recipes for the dying and artificial colouring of gemstones and pearls,cite web |url=http://www.history-science-technology.com/Articles/articles%2092.htm |title=The Colouring of Gemstones, The Purifying and Making of Pearls And Other Useful Recipes |accessdate=2008-03-29|last=Hassan |first=Ahmad Y |authorlink=Ahmad Y Hassan |work=History of Science and Technology in Islam] invents lustreware, [cite web |url=http://www.history-science-technology.com/Articles/articles%2091.htm |title=Lustre Glass |accessdate=2008-03-29|last=Hassan |first=Ahmad Y |authorlink=Ahmad Y Hassan |work=History of Science and Technology in Islam] [cite web |url=http://www.history-science-technology.com/Notes/Notes%209.htm |title=Lazaward And Zaffer Cobalt Oxide In Islamic And Western Lustre Glass And Ceramics |accessdate=2008-03-29|last=Hassan |first=Ahmad Y |authorlink=Ahmad Y Hassan |work=History of Science and Technology in Islam] and describes the first recipes for the manufacture of glue from cheese.

In the 9th century, stonepaste ceramics invented in Iraq. [cite journal |last=Mason |first=Robert B. |title=New Looks at Old Pots: Results of Recent Multidisciplinary Studies of Glazed Ceramics from the Islamic World |journal=Muqarnas: Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture |date=1995 |volume=XII |publisher=Brill Academic Publishers |id=ISBN 9004103147 |pages=5] In the 10th century, Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes) states he and his Arabic predecessors (Calid, Geber and Alkindus) invented the following derivative and artificial materials: lead(II) oxide (PbO), red lead (Pb3O4), tin(II) oxide ("Isfidaj"), copper acetate ("Zaniar"), copper(II) oxide (CuO), lead sulfide, zinc oxide, bismuth oxide, antimony oxide, iron rust, iron acetate, "Daws" (a contituent of steel), cinnabar (HgS), arsenic trioxide (As2O3), alkali ("al-Qili"), sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), and "Qalimiya" (anything that separates from metals during their purification)cite web |url=http://www.history-science-technology.com/Articles/articles%2010.htm |title=Arabic Alchemy: Science of the Art |accessdate=2008-03-29 |last=Hassan |first=Ahmad Y |authorlink=Ahmad Y Hassan |work=History of Science and Technology in Islam]

In the 11th century, Damascus steel is developed in the Middle East. In the 15th century, Johann Gutenberg develops type metal alloy and Angelo Barovier invents cristallo, a clear soda-based glass.

Early modern period

In the 16th century, Vannoccio Biringuccio publishes first systematic book on metallurgy, Georg Agricola writes an influential book on metallurgy, and glass lens are developed in the Netherlands and used for the first time in microscopes and telescopes.

In the 17th century, Galileo's "Two New Sciences" (strength of materials and kinematics) includes the first quantitative statements in the science of materials. In the 18th century, William Champion patents a process for the production of metallic zinc by distillation from calamine and charcoal, Bry Higgins issued a patent for hydraulic cement (stucco) for use as an exterior plaster, and Alessandro Volta makes a copper/zinc acid battery.

In the 19th century, Thomas Johann Seebeck invents the thermocouple, Joseph Aspin invents Portland cement, Hans Christian Ørsted produces metallic aluminium, Charles Goodyear invents vulcanized rubber, Louis Daguerre and William Fox Talbot invent silver-based photographic processes, James Clerk Maxwell demonstrates color photography, and Charles Fritts makes the first solar cells using selenium waffles.

Modern materials science

In the early part of the 20th century, most engineering schools had a department of metallurgy and perhaps of ceramics as well. Much effort was expended on consideration of the austenite-martensite-cementite phases found in the iron-carbon phase diagram that underlies steel production. The fundamental understanding of other materials was not sufficiently advanced for them to be considered as academic subjects. In the post-WWII era, the systematic study of polymers advanced particularly rapidly. Rather than create new polymer science departments in engineering schools, administrators and scientists began to conceive of materials science as a new interdisciplinary field in its own right, one that considered all substances of engineering importance from a unified point of view. Northwestern University instituted the first materials science department in 1955.

The [http://www.mrs.org Materials Research Society] (MRS) has been instrumental in creating an identity and cohesion for this young field. MRS was the brainchild of researchers at Penn State University and grew out of discussions initiated by Prof. Rustum Roy in 1970. The first meeting of MRS was held in 1973. As of 2006, MRS has grown into an international society that sponsors a large number of annual meetings and has over 13,000 members. MRS sponsors meetings that are subdivided into symposia on a large variety of topics as opposed to the more focused meetings typically sponsored by organizations like the American Physical Society or the IEEE. The fundamentally interdisciplinary nature of MRS meetings has had a strong influence on the direction of science, particularly in the popularity of the study of soft materials, which are in the nexus of biology, chemistry, physics and mechanical and electrical engineering.

ee also

*Timeline of materials technology
*History of Ferrous Metallurgy
* [http://hist-met.org/ Historical Metallurgy Society]
* [http://www.plastiquarian.com/ Plastics History Society]
* [http://www.historyofglass.org.uk/AHG.htm Association for the History of Glass]
*History of Silk


*Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571) "Autobiography".
*Galileo, 1638 Two New Sciences. Leiden: Louis Elsevier.
* [http://www.mrs.org/s_mrs/bin.asp?CID=2798&DID=155088&DOC=FILE.PDF 20th anniversary issue of MRS Bulletin] from 1973.
* Northwestern University [http://www.northwestern.edu/observer/issues/2005/10/20/materials.html press release] about 50th anniversary of its Materials Science Department in 2005.
* "Solid State Science: Past, Present and Predicted," edited by D.L. Weaire and C.G. Windsor, ISBN 0-85274-584-2.

Materials scientists

*Robert W. Cahn
*Pol Duwez
*Sir Charles Frank
*Arthur R. von Hippel
*Sir Peter Hirsch
*William Hume-Rothery
*Egon Orowan
*Henry Clifton Sorby
*Geoffrey Ingram Taylor
*David Turner
*Vito Volterra
*Clarence Zener

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