Materials World Modules

An Inquiry & Design-Based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Program

History of Materials Science

What is Materials Science?

Materials Science is the study of the characteristics and uses of various materials, such as metals, ceramics, and plastics (polymers), that are employed in science and technology. Materials science, by nature, is interdisciplinary, employing and integrating concepts and techniques from many disciplines, including chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics.

A MATERIALS SCIENCE TIMELINE
1500s
1556
Georgius Agricola's De re metallica, a compendium of 16th century mining, metallurgical, and general materials production, is published.
1600s
1664
Cartesian corpuscular philosophy recognizes material properties as emerging from a multilevel structure.
1665
Robert Hooke publishes Micrographia, which reveals levels of material microstructure never before seen.
1700s
1722
René de Réaumur publishes the first technical treatise on iron.
1782
Josiah Wedgwood develops an early form of process control with his invention of the pyrometer for measuring furnace temperatures.
1800s
1808
John Dalton publishes his New System of Chemical Philosophy, which establishes atomic theory.
1824
Joseph Aspdin invents portland cement, which remains one of the most used materials in the world.
1839
Charles Goodyear accidentally discovers vulcanization, which ultimately renders raw rubber latex into a widely useful material.
1856
Henry Bessemer patents a process for large-scale steel production.
1860s
Henry Sorby applies light microscopy to the study of the microstructure of metals and rocks.
1869
John Hyatt successfully commercializes celluloid, an artificial plastic material.
1869 and 1870
Dmitri Mendeleev and Julius Lothar Meyer publish versions of what will become known as the Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements.
1886
Charles Hall and Paul Héroult independently discover cost- effective methods for producing aluminum metal from ore.
1893
Floris Osmond discovers martensitic transformation.
1900s
1900
Max Planck formulates the idea of quanta, thereby setting the stage for the development of quantum mechanics.
1906
Alfred Wilm discovers age hardening in aluminum alloy, which is later used for making dirigibles and other aircraft.
1909
Leo Baekeland patents Bakelite, the first entirely synthetic plastic, and commercializes it widely.
1911
Heike Kamerlingh Onnes discovers superconductivity in mercury chilled to temperatures near absolute zero.
1911-12
The father-son team of William Henry and William Lawrence Bragg, along with Max von Laue, develops the basis of x-ray crystallography, one of the most important analytic techniques for studying material structure.
1921
A. A. Griffith postulates role of defects in fracture strength.
Late 1920s
Hermann Staudinger argues that polymers are made of small molecules that link to form chains.
1934
Wallace Hume Carothers invents nylon.
1940s
The wartime practice of organizing multidisciplinary research collaborations to achieve technological goals becomes a model for the subsequent organization of a field that later becomes known as materials science and engineering.
1947
John Bardeen, William Shockley, and Walter Brattain invent the transistor.
1950s to 1960s
Much of the theoretical foundation behind the formation and evolution of material microstructure is developed. Among them is the Hall-Petch relation for grain refinement strengthening and the theory of diffusion of solids.
1953
Karl Ziegler develops catalysts that make it easier and cheaper to polymerize ethylene into stronger, more capable polymers.
1955
A team of scientists at General Electric combine high temperatures and enormous pressures to create synthetic diamond.
1957
John Bardeen, Leon Cooper, and John Schrieffer provide theoretical basis for superconductivity, discovered in 1911.
1959
The U.S. government funds the first IDLs, or interdisciplinary laboratories, which mark a beginning of the modern academic model of materials science and engineering. J. W. Cahn and J. F. Hilliard develop theory of microstructural evolution in diffuse-interface systems.
1970
Researchers at Corning develop optical fibers transparent enough to make fiber optic communication practical.
1974
A study by an NAS committee, COSMAT, defines field of materials science and engineering, creating a community sensibility.
1980
Gerd Binnig (right) and Heinrich Rohrer (left) invent scanning tunneling microscopy, which has led to a family of imaging tools often capable of molecular- and atomic-scale resolution.
1985
First university "materials by design" initiatives attempt computational materials design.
1986
K. Alex Müller and J. Georg Bednorz discover high-temperature superconductivity in ceramic materials.
1990s
The field of materials science and engineering begins shifting into a more systems-based approach to materials innovation and toward materials design in which researchers can predict new materials they would like to have rather than having to discover them.

 

Materials Science Timeline Source:
Gregory B. Olson is Wilson-Cook Professor of Engineering Design in the department of materials science and engineering and director of the Materials Technology Laboratory atNorthwestern University.

 

@ Materials World Modules, 2017