If you think about it, what we learn about materials as undergraduates and as graduate students is usually isolated from the technological processes materials helped trigger. There is a lack of historical context and therefore, no way to appreciate the interconnections. Some students have the opportunity to take a course on the history of technology and that helps to fill this gap. But what we normally fail to see is how new technology is often paced by advances in materials. Consider that the industrial revolution of the 1800s was fueled by the ready availability of iron and gradually of steel--it enabled the development of such things as for rail transportation and suspension bridges. Or, going back even further, consider that eras in the development of humankind are named after the greatest material advance of that era (i.e., the Stone, Copper, Bronze, and Iron Ages), which enabled the culture that mastered the technology of a certain material to rise to dominance. More recent examples of technologies paced by materials science are the gas turbine engine and the semiconductor.
It is usually when you have finished school and enter the professional world that you begin to encounter the connection; we need to experience it first hand, perhaps several times, before we begin to appreciate the role of materials and materials technology. Mathematics is often referred to as the queen of science; perhaps materials science and engineering is the queen of technology. A less regal term, yet more appropriate, would be the mother of technology--much technology is born of a material once it can be produced consistently and cheaply. But perhaps someone already thought of that: after all, materials derives from matter (defined as the formless substratum of all things by Webster's Dictionary), which derives from the latin mater or mother.
University of Virginia; TMS Student Affairs Committee
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