. "1. Materials and Society." Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering -- Volume I, The History, Scope, and Nature of Materials Science and Engineering. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1975.
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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.