Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 1
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering CHAPTER 1 MATERIALS AND SOCIETY* * This chapter is primarily the work of COSMAT Panel I, particularly by the co-chairmen, Cyril S.Smith and Melvin Kranzberg.
OCR for page 2
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering This page in the original is blank.
OCR for page 3
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering CHAPTER 1 MATERIALS AND SOCIETY INTRODUCTION The field of materials is immense and diverse. Historically, it began with the emergence of man himself, and materials gave name to the ages of civilization. Today, the field logically encompasses the lonely prospector and the advanced instrumented search for oil; it spreads from the furious flame of the oxygen steelmaking furnace to the quiet cold electrodeposition of copper; from the massive rolling mill producing steel rails to the craftsman hammering out a chalice or a piece of jewelry; from the smallest chip of an electronic device to the largest building made by man; from the common paper-bag to the titanium shell of a space ship; from the clearest glass to carbon black; from liquid mercury to the hardest diamond; from superconductors to insulators; from the room-temperature casting plastics to infusible refractories (except they can be melted today); from milady’s stocking to the militant’s bomb; from the sweating blacksmith to the cloistered contemplating scholar who once worried about the nature of matter and now tries to calculate the difference between materials. Materials by themselves do nothing; yet without materials man can do nothing. Nature itself is a self-ordered structure which developed through time by the utilization of the same properties of atomic hierarchy that man presides over in his simple constructions. One of the hallmarks of modern industrialized society is our increasing extravagance in the use of materials. We use more materials than ever before, and we use them up faster. Indeed, it has been postulated that, assuming current trends in world production and population growth, the materials requirements for the next decade and a half could equal all the materials used throughout history up to date.1 This expanding use of materials is itself revolutionary, and hence forms an integral part of the “materials revolution” of our times. 1 The most popular—and most terrifying-of the projections prophesying dire results of the current trends in materials use in relation to present rates of population growth is to be found in the report of the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind. See Donella H.Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and William W.W.Behrens III, The Limits to Growth, Universe Books, New York (1972).
OCR for page 4
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering Not only are we consuming materials more rapidly, but we are using an increasing diversity of materials. A great new range of materials has opened up for the use of 20th-century man: refractory metals, light alloys, plastics, and synthetic fibers, for example. Some of these do better, or cheaper, what the older ones did; others have combinations of properties that enable entirely new devices to be made or quite new effects to be achieved. We now employ in industrial processes a majority of the ninety-two elements in the periodic table which are found in nature, whereas until a century ago, all but 20, if known at all, were curiosities of the chemistry laboratory.2 Not only are more of nature’s elements being put into service, but completely new materials are being synthesized in the laboratory. Our claim to a high level of materials civilization rests on this expanded, almost extravagant utilization of a rich diversity of materials. This extravagance is both a product of advances in materials and a challenge in its future growth. The enlarged consumption of materials means that we will have to cope increasingly with natural-resource and supply problems. Mankind is being forced, therefore, to enlarge its resource base—by finding ways to employ existing raw materials more efficiently, to convert previously unusable substances to useful materials, to recycle waste materials and make them reusable, and to produce wholly new materials out of substances which are available in abundance. The expanded demand for materials is not confined to sophisticated space ships or electronic and nuclear devices. In most American kitchens are new heat-shock-proof glasses and ceramics—and long-life electric elements to heat them; the motors in electric appliances have so-called oilless bearings which actually hold a lifetime supply of oil, made possible by powder metallurgy; the pocket camera uses new compositions of coated optical glass; office copy-machines depend on photoconductors; toy soldiers are formed out of plastics, not lead; boats are molded out of fiberglass; the humble garbage can sounds off with a plastic thud rather than a metallic clank; we sleep on synthetic foam mattresses and polyfiber pillows, instead of cotton and wool stuffing and feathers; we are scarcely aware of how many objects of everyday life have been transformed—and in most cases, improved—by the application of materials science and engineering (MSE). Moreover, as with a rich vocabulary in literature, the flexibility that is engendered by MSE greatly increases the options in substitutions of one material for another. Quite often the development of a new materials or process will have effects far beyond what the originators expected. Materials have somewhat the quality of letters in the alphabet in that they can be used to compose many things larger than themselves; amber, gold jewelry, and iron ore inspired commerce and the discovery of many parts of the world; improvements in optical glass lies behind all the knowledge revealed by the microscope; conductors, insulators, and semiconductors were needed to construct new communication systems which today affect the thought, work, and play of everyone. Alloy steel permitted the development of the automobile; titanium the space program. The finding of a new material was essential for the growth of the 2 Sir George P.Thomson, “…a New Materials Age,” General Electric Forum XI, 1 (Summer 1965) 5.
OCR for page 5
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering laser, the social uses of which cannot yet be fully imagined. In these, as in hundreds of other cases, the materials themselves are soon taken for granted, just as are the letters of a word. To be sure, the ultimate value of a material lies in what society chooses to do with whatever is made of it, but changes in the “smaller parts” reacting responsibly to larger movements and structures make: it possible to evolve new patterns of social organization. The transitions from, say, stone to bronze and from bronze to iron were revolutionary in impact, but they were relatively slow in terms of the time scale. The changes in materials innovation and application within the last half century occur in a time span which is revolutionary rather than evolutionary. The materials revolution of our times is qualitative as well as quantitative. It breeds the attitude of purposeful creativity rather than modification of natural materials, and also a new approach—an innovative organization of science and technology. The combination of these elements which constitutes materials science and engineering (MSE) is characterized by a new language of science and engineering, by new tools for research, by a new approach to the structure and properties of materials of all kinds, by a new interdependence of scientific research and technical development, and by a new coupling of scientific endeavor with societal needs. As a field, MSE is young. There is still no professional organization embodying all of its aspects, and there is even some disagreement as to what constitutes the field. One of the elements which is newest about it is the notion of purposive creation. However, MSE is responsive as well as creative. Not only does it create new materials, sometimes before their possible uses are recognized, but it responds to new and different needs of our sophisticated and complex industrial society. In a sense, MSE is today’s alchemy. Almost magically, it transmutes base materials, not into gold—although it can produce gold-looking substances—but into substances which are of greater use and benefit to mankind than this precious metal. MSE is directed toward the solution of problems of a scientific and technological nature bearing on the creation and development of materials for specific uses; this means that it couples scientific research with engineering applications of the end-product: one must speak of materials science and engineering as an “it” rather than “them.” Not only is MSE postulated on the linkage of science and technology, it draws together different fields within science and engineering. From technology, MSE brings metallurgists, ceramists, electrical engineers, chemical engineers; from science it embraces physicists, inorganic chemists, organic chemists, crystallographers, and various specialists within those major fields. In its development, MSE not only involved cooperation among different branches of science and engineering, but also collaboration among different kinds of organizations. Industrial corporations, governmental agencies, and universities have worked together to shape the outlines and operations of this new “field.” In recent years there has been a marked increase in the liaison between industrial production and industrial research, and between research in industry and that in the universities. The researcher cannot ignore problems of production, and the producer knows that he can get from the scientist
OCR for page 6
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering suggestions for new products and sometimes help for difficulties. It should be noticed that MSE has come about by the aggregation of several different specialties that were earlier separate, not, as so often happens, by growth of increased diversity within a field which keeps some cohesion. This change is just as much on the industrial side as it is on the academic. Industry continually uses its old production capabilities on new materials, and the scientist finds himself forced to look at a different scale of aggregation of matter. Most of the work on materials until the 20th century was aimed at making the old materials available in greater quantity, of better quality, or at less cost. The new world in which materials are developed for specific purposes (usually by persons who are concerned with end-use rather than with the production of the materials themselves) introduces a fundamental change, indeed. Heretofore, engineers were limited in their designs to the use of materials already “on the shelf.” This limitation no longer applies, and the design of new materials is becoming a very intimate part of almost every engineering plan. MSE interacts particularly well with engineers who have some application in mind. It often reaches the general public through secondary effects, such as negatively via the pollution which results from mining, smelting, or processing operations, and positively via the taken-for-granted materials that underly every product and service in today’s complicated world. The provision of materials for school children and mature artists is one of the more positive contacts with the public, Of course, most materials existed long before MSE aided in their development, but now it does provide the guidelines for future change. The rising tide of “materials expectations” is not for the materials themselves, but for things which of necessity incorporate materials. That materials are secondary in most end-applications is obvious from the name applied to the materials that remain when a machine or structure no longer serves its purpose— “junk.” There is, however, at least one positive direct contact, that of waste-material processing; for city waste disposal is a very challenging materials-processing problem, especially if the entire cycle from production, use, and reuse of materials can be brought into proper balance. As one cynical observer put it, “For the first two decades of its existence, materials science and engineering was engaged in producing new and better products for mankind; the major task of materials science and engineering for the next two decades is to help us get rid of the rubbish accumulated because of the successes of the past twenty years.” IMPORTANCE OF MATERIALS TO MAN Materials are so ubiquitous and so important to man’s life and welfare that we must obviously delimit the term in this survey, lest we find ourselves investigating nearly every aspect of science and technology and describing virtually every facet of human existence and social life. Unless we limit our scope, all matter in the universe will inadvertently be encompassed within the scope of our survey. But matter is not the same as material. Mainly we are concerned with materials that are to become part of a device or structure or product made by
OCR for page 7
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering man. The science part of MSE seeks to discover, analyze and understand the nature of materials, to provide coherent explanations of the origin of the properties that are used, while the engineering aspect takes this basic knowledge and whatever else is necessary (not the least of which is experience) to develop, prepare, and apply materials for specified needs, often the most advanced objectives of the times. It is the necessarily intimate relationship between these disparate activities that to some extent distinguishes MSE from other fields and which makes it so fascinating for its practitioners. The benefits come not only from the production of age-old materials in greater quantities and with less cost—an aspect which has perhaps the most visible influence on the modern world, but it also involves the production of materials with totally new properties. Both of these contributions have changed the economy and social structure, and both have come about in large measure through the application of a mixture of theoretical and empirical science with entrepreneurship. And just as the development of mathematical principles of design enabled the 19th-century engineer to test available materials and select the best suited for his constructions, so the deeper understanding of the structural basis of materials has given the scientist a viewpoint applicable to all materials, and at every stage from their manufacture to their societal use and ultimate return to earth. The production of materials has always been accompanied by some form of pollution, but this only became a problem when industrialization and population enormously increased the scale of operation. Longfellow’s poem contains no complaint about the smoke arising from the village smithy’s forge; if one of today’s poets would attempt to glorify the blacksmith’s modern counterpart, he would undoubtedly describe the smoke belching forth from the foundry, but there would be no mention of spreading chestnut trees because all those within a half-mile’s radius would long ago have withered from the pollution of the surrounding neighborhood. The simple fact is that an industrial civilization represents more activity, more production, and usually more pollution, even though the pollution attributable to each unit produced may be sharply decreased. The utilization of materials, as well as their manufacture, also generates pollution. Those of us living in affluent, highly industrialized countries enjoy the benefits of a “throw-away” society. The problem arises from the fact that many of the products we use are made from materials which are not strictly “throw-awayable.” Natural processes do not readily return all materials to the overall cycle, and in the case of certain mineral products, we can sometimes find no better way of disposing of scrap than to bury it back in the earth from which we had originally extracted it at great trouble and expense. Proposals for reuse or recycling often founder upon public apathy—but this is changing, and MSE has an important role to play. The moral and spiritual impact of materials on both consumer and producer is both less visible and more debatable. To those reared in a Puritanical ethic of self-denial, the outpouring of materials goods would seem almost sinful, as would the waste products of a throw-away society. Such conspicuous consumption would seem almost immoral in a world where so many people are still lacking basic material essentials. A more sophisticated objection might be that the very profusion of materials presents modern man with psychological dilemmas. We are presented with so many options that we
OCR for page 8
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering find it difficult to choose among them.3 It might be surprising to some that the question of the debasement of the materials producer should even be raised. Scientists have long claimed that their pursuit of an understanding of nature is innocent, and technologists have always assumed that their gifts of materials plenty to mankind would be welcomed. Hence, it has come as a shock to them during the past few years that the benefits of science and technology have been questioned. Both science and technology have been subjected to criticism from highly articulate members of the literature subculture, as well as from within their own ranks, regarding their contributions to mankind’s destructive activities and to the deterioration of the environment.4 To those engaged in materials production and fabrication, it may be disconcerting to realize that for a fair fraction of human history their activities have been viewed with suspicion and downright distaste by social thinkers and by the general public. The ancient Greek philosophers, who set the tone for many of the attitudes still prevalent throughout Western Civilization, regarded those involved in the production of material goods as being less worthy than agriculturists and others who did not perform such mundane tasks. Greek mythology provided a basis for this disdain: the Greek Gods were viewed as idealistic models of physical perfection; the only flawed immortal was the patron god of the metalworker, Hephaestus, whose lameness made him the butt of jokes among his Olympian colleagues, (But he got along well with Aphrodite, another producer!) Throughout ancient society the most menial tasks, especially those of mining and metallurgy, were left to slaves. Hence, the common social attitude of antiquity, persisting to this day in some intellectual circles, was to look down upon those who worked with their hands. Xenophon5 stated the case in this fashion: “What are called the mechanical arts carry a social stigma and are rightly dishonored in our cities. For these arts damage the bodies of those who work at them or who act as overseers, by compelling them to a sedentary life and to an indoor life, and, in some cases, to spend the whole day by the fire. This physical degeneration results also in deterioration of the soul. Furthermore, the workers at these trades simply have not got the time to perform the offices of friendship or citizenship. Consequently they are looked upon as bad friends and bad patriots, and in some cities, especially the warlike ones, it is not legal for a citizen to ply a mechanical trade.” 3 This is one of the major theses of Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, Random House, New York (1970). 4 There is a formidable literature of anti-science and anti-technology. Not only are there the attacks of the counter-culture (represented by the writings of Theodore Roszak, Paul Goodman, and Herbert Marcuse), but more thoughtful observers, such as Lewis Mumford, have attacked the spirit and practice of science and technology in the modern world. Among scientists, the work of Barry Commoner (The Closing Circle, Knopf, New York (1971)) stands out in this regard. 5 Oeconomicus, Book IV.
OCR for page 9
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering The ancients appreciated material goods but they did not think highly of those who actually produced them. In his life of Marcellus, Plutarch delivered this critical judgment, “For it does not of necessity follow that, if the work delights you with its grace, the one who wrought it is worthy of esteem.” The current apprehension concerning dangers to the environment from materials production might result in materials scientists and engineers being regarded with similar suspicion today. But there is yet a subtler way in which the triumphs of MSE might threaten the spirit of Western man. Advances in materials have gone beyond the simple task of conquering nature and mastering the environment. MSE attempts to improve upon nature. In a sense, this represents the ancient Greek sin of hubris, inordinate pride, where men thought they could rival or even excel the gods—and retribution from the gods followed inevitably. This may also be “original sin,” the Christian sin of pride, which caused Adam’s fall. By eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, Adam thought that he would know as much as God. Conceivably, by endeavoring to outdo nature modern man is preparing his own fall. Or perhaps his new knowledge will lead to control as well as power, and a richer life for mankind. MATERIALS IN THE EVOLUTION OF MAN AND IN PREHISTORY The very essence of a cultural development is its interrelatedness. This survey places emphasis on materials, but it should be obvious that materials per se are of little value unless they are shaped into a form that permits man to make or do something useful, or one that he finds delightful to touch or to contemplate. The material simply permits things to be done because of its bulk, its strength or, in more recent times, its varied combinations of physical, chemical, and mechanical properties. The internal structure of the material that gives these properties is simply one stage in the complex hierarchy of physical and conceptual structures that make up the totality of man’s works and aspirations. We do not know exactly when our present human species, homo sapiens, came into being, but we do know that materials must have played a part in the evolution of man from more primitive forms of animal primates. It was the interaction of biological material and cultural processes that differentiated man from the rest of the animal world.6 Other animals possess great physical advantages over man: the lion is stronger, the horse is faster, the giraffe has a greater reach for food. Nevertheless, man possesses certain anatomical features which prove particularly useful in enabling him to deal with his environment.7 6 Theodosius Dobzhansky, Mankind Evolving: The Evolution of the Human Species, Yale University Press, New Haven (1962), A popular account is to be found in John E.Pfeiffer, The Emergence of Man, Harper and Row, New York (1972). 7 See V.Gordon Childe, Man Makes Himself, Mentor Edn., New York (1951) chs. 1–2; and Childe, What Happened in History, Penguin edn., New York (1946) ch. 1.
OCR for page 10
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering Modern physical anthropologists believe that there is a direct connection between such cultural traits as toolmaking and tool-using, and the development of man’s physical characteristics, including his brain and his hand.8 Man would not have become Man the Thinker (homo sapiens) had he not at the same time been Man the Maker (homo faber). Man made tools, but tools also made man. Perhaps man did not throw stones because he was standing up; he could have learned to stand erect the better to throw stones. It is probable that the earliest humans used tools rather than made them, that is, they selected whatever natural objects were at hand for immediate use before they anticipated a possible future task and prepared the tools for it. Once this idea was formulated and man began to discover and test out things for what they could do, he found natural objects—sticks, fibers, hides—and combined materials and shapes to serve his purposes. He tried bones and horn, but the hardest and densest material at hand was stone. When he further learned how to form materials as well as select them, and to communicate his knowledge, civilization could begin; it appears there was a strong evolutionary bias towards anatomical and mental types that could do this. While the early stages still remain the realm of hypothesis, there is general agreement that it was over two million years ago when a pre-human hominid began to use pebbles or stones as tools, though the shaping of specialized tools came slowly. The recognition that there had been a cultural level to which we now give the name of Stone Age—itself a tribute to the importance of materials in man’s development—did not occur until well into the 19th century. When, about 1837, the Frenchman Boucher de Perthes propounded the view that some oddly-shaped stones were not “freaks of nature” but were the result of directed purposeful work by human hands, he was ridiculed. Only when the vastness of geological time scales was established and it became possible to depart from a literal interpretation of biblical genesis could credence be given to the notion that these stones were actually tools.9 Some of the features of today’s materials engineering can already be seen in the selection of flint by our prehistoric forebears as the best material for making tools and weapons. Availability, shapability, and serviceability are balanced. The brittleness of flint enabled it to be chipped and flaked into specialized tools, but it was not too fragile for service in the form of scrapers, knives, awls, hand axes, and the like. The geopolitical importance of material sources also appears early. It is perhaps not surprising that we find the most advanced early technologies and societies developing where 8 See S.L.Washburn, “Speculations on the Interrelations of the History of Tools and Biological Evolution,” The Evolution of Man’s Capacity for Culture, J.N.Spuhler, ed., Wayne University Press, Detroit (1959) 21–31; A.Brues, “The Spearman and the Archer—An Essay on Selection in Body Build,” American Anthropologist, 61 (1959)457–69. See also The Dawn of Civilization, McGraw-Hill, New York (1961). 9 Robert F.Heizer, “The Background of Thomson’s Three-Age System,” Technology and Culture, III, 3 (Summer 1962) 259–66.
OCR for page 11
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering good-quality flint was available. It may even be, as Jacobs has surmised10, that cities arose from flint-trading centers and that the intellectual liveliness accompanying the cultural interchange of travellers then created the environment in which agriculture originated. The pattern of human settlement from prehistoric times to our contemporary world has been determined in large measure by the availability of materials and the technological ability to work them. Man could survive successive ice ages in the Northern Hemisphere without migrating or developing a shaggy coat like the mammoth because he had found some means of keeping himself warm—with protective covering from the skins of animals which, with his wooden and stone weapons, he could now hunt with some degree of success, but also, perhaps principally, by the control of fire, which became one of his greatest steps in controlling his environment. By the beginning of Palaeolithic (early Stone Age) times—between 800,000 and 100,000 years ago—man could produce fire at will by striking lumps of flint and iron pyrites against each other to produce sparks with which tinder, straw, or other flammable materials could be ignited. Man’s control and use of fire had immense social and cultural consequences. With fire he could not only warm his body but could also cook his food, greatly increasing the range of food resources and the ease of its preservation. Claude Levi-Strauss, the French anthropologist famous for his “structuralist” approach to culture, claims that the borderline between “nature” and “culture” lies in eating one’s meat raw or eating it cooked.11 By their role in producing and fueling fires, materials thus played a significant part in the transition from “animal-ness” to “human-ness,” but more than that, fire provided a means of modifying and greatly extending the range of properties available in materials themselves. Every cultural conquest, such as the use of fire, requires other cultural developments to make its use effective, and it also has unanticipated consequences in totally unforeseen areas. Containers were needed for better fire and food. The invention of pots, pans, and other kitchen utensils made it possible to boil, stew, bake, and fry foods as well as to broil them by direct contact with the fire. The cooking itself, and the search for materials to do it in, was perhaps the beginning of materials engineering! Furthermore, though the molding and fire hardening of clay figurines and fetishes had preceded the useful pot, it was the latter that, in the 8th millenium B.C., gave rise to the development of industry. Clay was the first inorganic material to be given completely new properties as a result of an intentional operation upon it by human beings. Though stone, wood, hides, and bone had earlier been beautifully formed into tools and utensils, their substance had remained essentially unchanged. The ability to make a hard stone from soft and moldable clay not only unfolded into useful objects, but the realization that man could change the innermost nature of natural materials must have had a profound impact upon his view of his powers; it gave him confidence to search for new materials at an ever increasing rate. 10 Jane Jacobs, The Economy of Cities, Random House, New York (1969). 11 Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked; Introduction to a Science of Mythology, Harper and Row, New York (1969).
OCR for page 54
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering increasing success of end-use-oriented development work, all interacted to suggest that a new field of materials science and engineering might be forming. Many university departments changed from “metallurgy” to “metallurgy and materials science” or “materials science and engineering,” thus indicating their changing objectives; there was an analogous shift from “mining” to “mining and metallurgy” and then to “metallurgy” in the 1920’s and 30’s. As in the latter sequence, these changes were accompanied by some inevitable loss, but the broader character of the new organizations will in time correct this. It remains to be seen whether the new MSE grouping is viable at universities. In order for this evolutionary interactive process to continue, there will have to be no slackening in the ongoing development of the specific sciences and areas of engineering knowledge that compose MSE. In 1957, the distribution of funds for research in materials was divided about as follows: solid-state physics, 35%; metallurgy, 29%; and ceramics, 10%; with smaller amounts going to research in other related fields, such as physical chemistry, and, of course, more in the application of known materials for various military devices. Yet the decade from 1947 to 1957 was precisely the time when exciting developments in quantum theory of solids and dislocation theory, as well as electron microscopy and other research techniques, were bringing the metallurgist and physicist together for interdisciplinary studies of materials. It was also a time when interdisciplinary activity already flourishing in industrial research laboratories began to place demands upon the universities for the training of research scientists who could work in this newly-evolving environment. Concomitantly, mission-oriented governmental agencies, such as the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Defense, were becoming increasingly interested in new materials with exotic qualities for use in new energy sources, new weapons systems, and new propulsion schemes. A number of studies indicated the need for the allocation of research funds along new directions. Several reports pointed toward the creation and development of an institutionalized form of support for materials science and engineering. The “Sproull Report” (named for Dr. Robert L.Sproull, a physics professor at Cornell, who was later to become head of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense (DoD)) spoke of the need to support research in solid-state physics. Dr. C.F.Yost of the Air Force, at about the same time, proposed a center for research on the growth of crystals; and the Air Force, in an assessment conducted by a group at Woods Hole in 1957 also stressed the importance for greater research in materials. A Department of Defense/Materials Advisory Board study (nicknamed the “Dartmouth Report” because of the place where the conference was held) also advocated the allocation of more funds for materials research in 1957–58. The same recommendation was made in a report on “Perspectives in Materials Research” issued under the auspices of the Office of Naval Research and the National Academy of Sciences.77 These reports were unanimous in pointing to the growing importance of materials and hence for greater knowledge of their nature and behavior. But, it must be recalled, these pleas were being paralleled by many from other fields of science and engineering in the face of a general 77 Julius J.Harwood, “Emergence of the Field and Early Hopes,” Materials Science and Engineering, Rustum Roy, ed., University Park, Pa., (1970) 6.
OCR for page 55
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering levelling-off of governmental research support. The successful orbiting of the Soviet Sputnik in October 1957 gave new incentive for the government to marshall the nation’s scientific and engineering resources in a way which had not occurred before, not even in wartime. As the nation came to the realization that its strength lay in its scientific research and engineering knowledge, as well as the educational base to produce the necessary manpower, unprecedented sums of government funds became available for the support of research and education. The field of MSE was one of the chief beneficiaries of this change in the national priorities. Men at the highest level of government became concerned with the country’s requirements for materials. Through its Coordinating Committee on Materials Research and Development (CCMRD), the Federal Council for Science and Technology undertook in 1959 a survey of research needs in the area. This inquiry focused on university research capabilities and on expanding the number of graduate students in the sciences, which had reached a plateau during the years 1948–60. As a result of the CCMRD study, the Federal Council recommended a long-range effort to increase the magnitude of government-sponsored materials research in the universities and to effect a qualitative improvement through the development of more sophisticated research approaches in the field. In its 1960 report, the President’s Science Advisory Committee gave its support to the proposals advanced by the Federal Council for Science and Technology. The Federal Council proposed the following: (a) the establishment of Interdisciplinary Laboratories (IDL) for materials research; (b) improvement of the equipment and facilities of the universities’ research capabilities; (c) increasing the production of Ph.D.’s in materials science; (d) enabling individual governmental agencies to carry out the objectives of this policy; and (e) stressing the importance of continuity in the funding on a long-range basis rather than the previous short-term commitments for specific research projects.78 The government agency entrusted with the chief responsibility for carrying out these recommendations was ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) of the DoD, Itself organized in 1958 in direct response to the Sputnik impact of the preceding year, ARPA had as its mission the stimulation of innovation in areas of science and technology relevant to national defense. Its task was to prevent the U.S. from being surprised by any more Sputnik-type achievements and to keep America in the forefront of scientific and technological developments, including some whose nature seemed remote from the current activities of the three Armed Services. One of the first programs undertaken by ARPA was the initiation of the IDL program in materials science.79 Interest in advancing research in materials science was not confined to the DoD, of course; both NASA and the AEC which had previously provided the 78 Reference 77, pp. 7–8. 79 Robert A.Huggins, “Accomplishments and Prospects of the Interdisciplinary Laboratories,” in Problems and Issues of a National Materials Policy, pp. 221–35.
OCR for page 56
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering major support continued their programs in materials research. Three objectives were identified for the IDL program: (a) doubling the output of Ph.D.’s in material science; (b) expanding the capabilities of universities to conduct materials research and expanding the quantity of this research effort; and (c) promoting interdisciplinary mixing in research areas of interest common to various materials-related disciplines. Interdisciplinary laboratories under this program were established at seventeen universities; twelve were funded by ARPA, three by NASA, and two by the AEC. This was a truly unique program, “aimed at producing a massive upgrading of both quality and quantity in a specific field of basic science of national interest.” From its inception in 1960 until the end of fiscal year 1972, ARPA had spent $157.9 million on the IDL program. There were several significant aspects to the IDL funding program. For one thing, unlike the mission-oriented programs typical of DoD funding, its aim was to improve the academic capabilities for basic research and to expand graduate education. By providing the essential equipment—about one-fifth of ARPA funding went for buildings, laboratory equipment, and central facilities—the DoD through ARPA was laying the foundation for later applied research, sometimes mission-oriented. Furthermore, the detailed technical management of the IDL was handled locally by the university faculties; there was little centralized control from Washington. In addition, although emphasis was placed on the interdisciplinary characteristics of the field, considerable care was taken to avoid injuring the sensibilities of the individual disciplines involved or disturbing the normal departmental organizational structures of academia. Still another unusual element in the program was the provision for long-term contracts or forward funding. The ARPA program did not provide total support of the IDL’s; it featured the concept of core support, that is, only part of the ARPA funds went for operating costs of specific research programs. But ARPA did provide rather liberal funds for building space and research facilities, and so greatly benefited the materials research being financed by grants for specific projects from other governmental agencies. Thus, ARPA funded only about two-fifths of the materials research in academia, with the remaining research support coming from other project-sponsoring agencies and the universities themselves. The objective of the IDL program in training Ph.D.’s was quickly reached. In 1955, only some 86 Ph.D.’s were granted in the fields of metallurgy and ceramics; by 1965 and 1966, this number had increased to between 160 and 180. But metallurgy and ceramics do not comprise the entire field of MSE by any means. In the group of twelve universities with ARPA/IDL support, the number of Ph.D.’s granted in all materials-related fields went from about 100 in 1960 to between 350 and 360 in each of the years 1967–69. In other words, the IDL program succeeded in more than tripling the number of Ph.D.’s in the materials area. The corresponding effect on quality remains to be assessed, but the indications thusfar look favorable. The universities were only a part of the total governmental effort to develop MSE. Fueled to a major degree, though not exclusively, by federal expenditures for the aerospace program and other new technologies, industrial research laboratories in metallurgy, polymers, and electronics had become thriving centers for the interdisciplinary “mix” constituting MSE, but
OCR for page 57
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering focussing for the most part on research needed for short-term applications. While by 1965 the government had achieved its aim in the IDL program of producing more men with advanced materials-research training, the problem now became one of linking the research performed in the universities with industrial applications. It had to be translated into “hardware.” Of course, this was partially accomplished as the new Ph.D.’s moved into industrial research laboratories, but a closer linkage seemed desirable. In the mid-1960’s, the government began an attempt to connect university research with industrial problems and applications through the ARPA “coupling program.” The issue had been set forth in a report, “Federal Materials Research Program,” prepared in November 1965 by the Coordinating Committee on Materials Research and Development for the Federal Council for Science and Technology. In this, it was pointed out that “frequently knowledge exists in one branch of science and technology, but the application needs occur in another, and the flow of information between the two is not adequate.” The Committee, therefore, recommended “that consideration be given to the problem of insuring that the best available understanding of the behavior of materials be put to use in all phases of their processing, fabrication, and application.” Although ARPA’s coupling program might not have originated in direct response to the CCMRD recommendation, it was directed to the same end, namely, the application of materials research via a closer relationship between university research and the materials requirements of the Department of Defense, and to stimulate a higher level of applied research activity in academia. Accordingly, ARPA initiated a series of joint contractual relationships for cooperative research in special areas of materials technology between a number of universities and industrial organizations and/or a DoD laboratory.80 In the original IDL program, the universities had been the prime contractors, but in the coupling program industrial organizations became the prime contractors, Three such programs were initiated in 1965 and a fourth late in 1966. In the late 1960’s government support of R & D in all categories, including MSE, began to level off after almost a threefold increase during the years from 1960 to 1966 (almost $2 billion in 1960 to approximately $5.5 billion in 1966), Industrial R & D, which had doubled during the same interval ($7.7 billion in 1960 to $16 billion in 1966) also began levelling off, largely as a result of the decline in federal spending for defense and aerospace programs. This decline was partially due to public disenchantment with the war in Viet Nam, a winding-down of the space effort as the lunar landing became imminent, and the change in fiscal policies induced by a change in the federal administration. Moreover, the rising tide of student discontent with the military, even as a source of funds, made such involvement less attractive to universities. At the same time, growing scrutiny of the DoD budget by Congress made the military increasingly reluctant to sponsor projects which did not have direct connection with defense needs; indeed, “the Mansfield Amendment” made this compulsory. 80 Herbert H.Test, “The Materials Research Centers,” Industrial Research (April 1966), pp. 41–47; S.Victor Radcliffe, “Two Decades of Change in Graduate Education in Metallurgy/Materials,” Journal of Metals 21 (May (1969) 29–35.
OCR for page 58
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering DoD funding of university research in materials-related basic science was a victim of this change in policy. In 1971 ARPA began withdrawing its support from the IDL program, transferring it to the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF, on its part, immediately began a review and evaluation of the ARPA/IDL program in order to decide on the proper level of continued support. The funds available were not sufficient to take up the slack left by the DoD withdrawal, especially under the inflationary increase in costs. The change in the nature and level of governmental funding of research reflected, of course, a change in national goals and priorities. Military and aerospace requirements, which had been a major factor in stimulating government interest in MSE, no longer loomed so large in the popular mind as did questions of the environment, urban problems, and “the quality of life.” The “space race” against the U.S.S.R. had been won when the first Americans landed on the moon (apparently the Russians had withdrawn from this “race” even before this), and the “cold war mentality” had subsided somewhat with the U.S. gradual disengagement from the Vietnamese conflict. There was also the “thawing” of America’s relationship with both the Soviet Union and Red China during President Nixon’s visits to those countries in the Spring of 1972. Since the underlying stimulus for the first federal spending for MSE was national in objectives and motivations, it is not surprising that changes in these objectives made necessary a re-evaluation of the accomplishments in the materials area. Even before the major outlines of the change in U.S. science policy had made themselves clear, the Committee on Science and Public Policy of the National Academy of Sciences had sensed a change in the situation and therefore commissioned an ad hoc Committee on the Survey of Materials Science and Engineering (COSMAT) to make the present study. PERSPECTIVES ON MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING The developments outlined in this chapter show increasing recognition of materials as a field of study which brings together theories, methods, and processes of many separate disciplines. Nevertheless, there is still some doubt as to whether or not MSE has emerged as a distinct professional field. Perhaps this is partly because the IDL program never completely succeeded in providing the close, collaborative interdisciplinary effort which it had envisaged. In too many cases, the disciplinary lines in academia, following compartmented departmental structures, each with its own high degree of autonomy, impeded the full realization of the interdisciplinary potentialities. Communication between physical and chemical scientists sometimes was difficult, and these difficulties were modest in comparison to the communication problem between theoretically-inclined scientists and practically-minded engineers. And even in those instances where the interdisciplinary mixing achieved a fully cooperative and collaborative solution to a problem, this did not mean that a feeling of common professionalism emerged. At the National Colloquy on the Field of Materials held in 1969 at Pennsylvania State University, two leading members of the field of MSE deplored the fact that materials science had still not achieved professional status, that is, it had not yet become a sociological cluster of peer groups
OCR for page 59
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering with common concerns and standards. Both Morris Cohen and Rustum Roy recognized this fact. It was observed that materials scientists and engineers did not yet share a common sense of identity; they still thought of themselves as physicists, ceramists, metallurgists, electrical engineers, and the like, not as materials professionals. Roy suggested that the feeling of belonging to a single community of scientists and engineers engaged in the same line of work could only come through the institutionalization of MSE, perhaps through the development of materials-related sections within existing scientific and engineering professional societies and their grouping together across disciplinary boundaries.81 Yet, the question of professionalism among those engaged in work on materials may not be a crucial one. The real issue is: what has the emerging field of MSE, with its flexible coupling of disciplines, actually accomplished in the understanding, development, and application of materials? Here the answer can neither be clear nor definitive. For one thing, the direct governmental support for MSE as a unique field is still fairly recent from the historical point-of-view; hence, the most significant results may not yet be apparent. After all, only in the past several years have the universities begun to turn out Ph.D.’s in materials at an accelerated pace, and they probably have not had time to make their mark in the scientific and engineering world. Moreover, any narration of the accomplishments of MSE is hampered by a lack of complete information. In order, therefore, to look at the successes and failures of MSE, we can refer only to a limited number of cases, some of them occurring before the field had emerged in its present form, some others—only a handful—coming when MSE was finally recognized as a new and different field. We might also be able to project the future usefulness of MSE by attempting to match current needs with the capabilities involved in the nature and methodologies of MSE work. One of the major industrial achievements of recent times has been the transistor.82 The transistor was invented before there was any recognition of the uniqueness of MSE as a separate field of science and engineering; MSE cannot claim any credit for originating the transistor, but the transistor can claim some credit for MSE because it focussed attention upon the contributions which the interaction of its component disciplines might make to contemporary society. Interestingly enough, the transistor itself is an outcome of advances in fairly “pure” solid-state physics made by Bardeen and Brattain and Shockley, but it could not have come into useful existence without the inspired semi-empirical development of highly technical zone-refining methods to produce silicon crystals of fantastically high purity and controlled impurities. Moreover, the crystals had to be virtually perfect. Most of the subsequent developments in semiconductors were less dependent upon basic physics than they were upon advances in circuitry, in techniques for microshaping, and in the diffusion of impurity elements to change the local behavior of the semiconductor. No longer did the electrical components have to be separately made and laboriously connected. Every step in this 81 “Evaluation and Postscript,” Materials Science and Engineering, Rustum Roy, ed. University Park, Pa. (1970) 113–23. 82 See reference 7, page 1–46.
OCR for page 60
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering development needed intimate consultation among scientists and engineers—indeed, the boundary between the two disappeared. The background of all this lay in classical metallurgical studies of crystal growth, diffusion, and oxidation, but it was a new world which required chemical, crystallographic, and mechanical precision far outranking anything previously experienced. Following the transistor, other devices using semiconductors proliferated. Though previously used in photocells and rectifiers on a small scale, the enhanced theory and sophisticated experience enabled far broader applications. New photoconductors gave birth to a vast array of electrostatic photocopying machines and to devices for seeing in the dark. There are hints that semiconducting surfaces may substitute for the conventional silver-based chemically-developed photographic film, itself in its development a marvel of interaction between physical and chemical research and purposeful industrial development. The laser, so pregnant with possibilities in many fields, is an example of a discovery prompted by intellectual curiosity being rapidly developed by purposeful engineering, both needing and yielding physical insight at every stage. A much earlier example was the development of hard and soft magnetic materials. The introduction of silicon iron for transformer cores in the early 1900’s had a spectacular effect in cutting power losses and in electrical distribution systems.83,84 As the domain theory of ferromagnetism was developed, even softer materials appeared for communication devices, and at the other extreme, there came magnets of strength and stability orders-of-magnitude better than the older steel or lodestone magnets. The factor most responsible for the almost explosive change of knowledge and technical capacity in these materials-related areas is the conscious interaction among scientists and engineers. In all of these cases, there was some background of existing knowledge of the materials (sometimes acquired in the academic physics laboratory), but the large-scale applications arose from specifically-directed activity based on new theory and requiring constantly new techniques for realization. In the first half of the 20th century, the electrical industry made or inspired almost all the new materials other than steel. A recent example of a spectacularly new use of old material is that of plastic composites in ablative nose cones, without which space vehicles could not safely re-enter the earth’s atmosphere. The first search for materials to dissipate the frictional heat was directed toward refractory metals and ceramics; the solution came unexpectedly from plastics, whose decomposition absorbed heat and left behind a continuously renewable porous, insulating, heat-radiating layer of char. Charring had previously been regarded as a thoroughly undesirable characteristic of organic polymeric materials. Now the principle is being applied to other high-temperature insulating problems, such as for piping. 83 Robert Hadfield, Metallurgy and Its Influence on Modern Progress, Chapman and Hall, London (1925). On transformer iron see especially pp. 125–139. 84 J.H.Bechtold and G.W.Wiener, “The History of Soft-Magnetic Materials,” Sorby Centennial Symposium, C.S.Smith, ed., pp. 501–518. (See ref. 50.)
OCR for page 61
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering New applications for a material can rarely be anticipated for they depend on nonmaterial factors. The properties of any kind of material embody the basic nature of matter, which underlies all things no less than do the laws of gravitation and relativity, but in the present stage of knowledge, real materials combine the basic principles in a way not often predictable. The transfer and development of materials found in a given setting to be appropriate for another is more common than designing them from first principles. Transfer instead of invention is even more frequent in technology than in science. For example, titanium metallurgy was developed intensively with military aircraft applications in mind (benefiting, incidentally, from the experience with zirconium which had proved so useful in nuclear reactors and which had many metallurgical similarities with titanium); as a result, titanium was ready for the supersonic transport when it was cancelled. However there is little doubt that the combination of lightness, strength (particularly at high temperatures) and corrosion resistance of titanium will find numerous applications, particularly since its ores are abundant in the earth’s crust and it will certainly become cheaper as its presently-difficult technology is mastered. The development of composite materials provides another example of payoff in MSE, and also of some beneficial spillover from military to civilian technology, DoD subsidized much research on glass- and other fiber-reinforced plastics of high strength, low weight, and high modulus of elasticity. This began with ballistic missile cases and with structural components of aircraft in mind, and the success in the military applications stimulated the civilian economy for these materials in boats, truck cabs, trailer bodies, geodetic structures, fishing poles, pipe, battery cases, storage tanks, and the like. Such high-strength, light-weight structural materials may some day replace steel and concrete in the multitude of everyday applications. Perhaps the developments in MSE most familiar to the civilian population are those involving plastics. After all, many of the more sophisticated materials, such as the transistor, although used in everyday devices, are buried inside a “black box.” What the public sees, feels, and becomes conscious of are the outsides of the “black boxes,” which are often made of plastic. Plastics in their many forms, stiff or flexible, transparent or opaque, filmy, fibrous, or massive have found their way into every room of the house (especially the kitchen), replacing older materials, usually giving cheaper objects, but perhaps less fragile, more flexible, and often more colorful if not more richly decorative than those that they replaced. The variability of the chemistry of the underlying polymeric molecule and the versatility of the fabricating techniques enable materials to be tailored to almost any specific needs. Newly-developed materials enable new things to be done, but they also may do the old ones better or more cheaply. The competition gives life to old industries. Plastics substitute for leather, wood, ceramics, and metal in thousands of applications. Electrical transmission cables have always been covered with insulation of some kind; now synthetic polyethylene can not only be applied more easily than the older coatings, but its electrical properties and its resistance to aging are far superior. It is in this area of substitutions that the next phase of MSE may be most visible, for it ties in with concern over the exhaustion of certain natural resources. Substitutions will enable us to make use of more abundant
OCR for page 62
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering raw materials than those which are less abundant. However, it must be pointed out that substitution cannot be applied in an unthinking manner, for both short-range and long-range considerations are involved. If more energy is used in providing a substitute or in recycling, this may entail an overall retrogression of environmental quality. The entire complex of materials resources must be considered; we must protect the materials resources of future generations as well as our own. Perhaps the chief emphasis should be to develop materials which can be recovered and re-used. The refuse of a city is a valuable, if dilute, ore body, whose exploitation is a challenge to MSE. Another way to conserve natural resources is to adopt more efficient designs and to employ materials that are stronger, lighter, and more resistant to decay by corrosion. The interdependent nature of technologies and resources would seem to require the integration of our efforts in MSE into the broader goals of national policy. However, the story of the development of MSE is not wholly one of successes. There have been failures as well as triumphs. Most of the failures, involving blind alleys of research which have not resulted in applications, go unreported; in the world of science and technology, as in the world of sports, the attention is focused on the “winners.” On the other hand, much can be learned from experiences that did not produce good results, and indeed, the history of metallurgy during the past two centuries contains many instances of knowledge gained by studying failures in processing and in applications. Yet, by and large, it is the successes—or potential successes—of MSE which achieve publicity and which attract the investment of large sums, both governmental and private, into further research in the field. There are inevitably hazards surrounding the introduction of new materials, especially when there is inadequate time for testing them under service conditions. Indeed, it is unlikely that promoters can fully anticipate either the difficulties or the successes. Initial enthusiasm for new materials has almost always been followed by a period of disenchantment, and this in turn by a period of slower, sound growth. This was true with Bessemer and his new steel process; aluminum, at first a miracle metal struggled for many years before it was accepted by the engineering world on the basis of slowly-gained experience; and more recently titanium failed to meet many of the promises of its proponents, before finding its proper, useful niche. There has been one particularly-publicized “failure” of MSE. It was the inability of the Rolls-Royce Company to develop highly-promising new composite carbon-fiber materials to the stage of service reliability needed for the engines in the Lockheed Tristar which forced the Rolls-Royce Company into bankruptcy and threatened one of America’s leading aerospace manufacturers with financial ruin. The implications of this event were enormous, both internationally as well as domestically. Grave issues of public policy arose when the Lockheed Corporation asked the federal government for funds to sustain its operations; relations between the U.K. and the U.S. were embittered; and a serious blow was struck at the British economy. Some ascribed the inability of Rolls-Royce to meet its goals to managerial shortcomings; others blamed the deficiencies of materials scientists and engineers, who themselves still quarrel over whose fault it was. Others claim that too great reliance was placed upon the promise of a single materials development—albeit a
OCR for page 63
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering highly promising one—without the precaution of following up alternative technologies to fall back on in case of failure. Still others maintained that the scientists and engineers involved were endeavoring with inadequate service testing to make too great a leap beyond the existing state of the art. The episode will probably continue to be a source of discussion and argument for many years. Perhaps no single explanation is correct; perhaps many contributing errors of judgment interacted to yield the final debacle. The entire episode has had a sobering effect upon over-enthusiastic proponents of MSE. The Rolls-Royce episode reminds us that MSE is not an American monopoly, but like all science and technology, is international in scope. The British practitioners of MSE have also had their share of successes—indeed, most of the earlier steps toward both the science and the engineering of materials took place in England, and a disproportionate fraction of the leading scientists in the field are in the U.K. today. There is an international community of materials scientists and engineers, and it happens that many of the leaders in the materials field in the U.S. today are of foreign birth and education. The international character of MSE might also be a matter of foreign-policy concern for the U.S., not only in regard to the availability of resources and strategic materials on a global scale, but also in terms of international competition and cooperation in science and technology. The significance of science and engineering in contemporary life involves more than the competition among nations. It is basic to the quality of life within a nation for present and future generations. The increasing emphasis upon the ecological consequences of contemporary technologies provides another challenge to MSE. Through the development of substitute materials and the creation of new ones, MSE might be a means of insuring the continuation of a highly industrialized society and the extension of its benefits throughout the earth. We must produce and utilize materials in such a way that an ecological balance between social man and his physical environment can be maintained. In this, of course, all fields of science and engineering are encompassed and are dependent upon economic, social, and political changes. While it is true that science and technology have created some of our current problems, many of these are socio-political in origin and antedate the birth of our present industrial civilization. The solution of those problems cannot be resolved by a moratorium on science or by endeavoring to turn back the technological clock. We will need more science and technology leading to a better understanding of social, environmental, and resource interactions. In all this, MSE must certainly play a significant role. At least, MSE provides a powerful example for study of an multidisciplinary effort in a combined academic-governmental-industrial endeavor. The most advanced MSE has heretofore been applied chiefly to the highly-sophisticated requirements of military, aerospace, nuclear energy, and electronics. Now it must be expanded to include civilian programs, the development of new materials, and new methods of processing the old ones. Will the cooperation of academic-governmental-industrial efforts be as capable of producing results in the civilian sector? While, as Dr. Walter Hibbard has stated, MSE might be of relatively little assistance in solving contemporary needs in housing, which he believes are capable of solution by existing technology and by certain economic,
OCR for page 64
Materials and Man’s Needs Materials Science and Engineering: Volume 1 The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering social, political changes, there are many areas of public concern which will require the attention of the materials community. MSE could exemplify the newly-awakened consciousness of the scientific-technical community toward social concerns, and it is in the context of this new challenge to scientists and engineers that the present report on MSE is undertaken. The national goals and priorities are changing, and MSE itself must adjust in order to meet the new opportunities which society poses for it—and for all of science and technology. Finally, the COSMAT study is based upon a philosophical presupposition, which may be in some public disrepute today among those who manifest interest in the occult and who place emphasis on emotional and romantic means of solving human problems. COSMAT relies on the proposition that science and technology represent rational means of coping with the human condition and on the further proposition that MSE can make a great contribution, if wisely applied and utilized, to that end. In retrospect, it can now be discerned that the various strands of MSE took form quite separately—the discovery and development of many different kinds of materials, the approaches of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs with quite different aims and methods, the individual specialized techniques for materials fabrication and utilization, and, by no means least, the educational, industrial, and social organization to weave together all of these strands. Now that interrelationship of these things has been recognized, one can perceive within MSE a pattern of approach toward complex problems that may be transferable to other areas. It uses every bit of knowledge obtained by rigorous analytical thinking, but it applies this to real situations that have arisen as a result of a long and unique history. Brilliant successes in science for the last four centuries have come from the analytical approach, and the resulting expansion of knowledge has been enormous. But the mere aggregation of precise parts does not make an effective whole. The recent concern with ecology illustrates this in another domain. The advances of molecular biology have prepared the way for a new study of the nature of organisms, their evolution, their individual growth and morphology, and is beginning to revitalize the older fields of nature study as a whole. At the present stage of history, we have such extensive knowledge of the behavior of atoms in small groups that we are not likely to be in for any great surprises in that regime; on the other hand, scientists are only just beginning to be aware of the great richness of the phenomena arising from the larger aggregation of atoms, Perhaps the complex interactions in MSE are already pointing toward a richer science which may eventually, in an analogous fashion but on a higher level, even deal with interactions between the sciences and society. At least some practitioners in MSE see in the behavior of their materials on an atomic level a pattern of structures and structural changes which, on an ever-larger scale and with changing units, form overall patterns of higher and higher levels of aggregation encompassing more and more functions. One can also find in materials a suggestive metaphor that may be applicable to many other areas—a nucleus of a new event appearing before its environment is ready for such a change will not persist. In other words, anything whatever takes meaning only by interaction with things external to itself, and that will surely be true for MSE.
Representative terms from entire chapter: