Published: Jan 1960
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It is indeed a pleasure to have the opportunity to discuss some aspects of education in materials. The subject of this symposium is not new, for education in materials has received the attention of many individuals. One of the first of whom we have a record is Vitrivius, a builder who lived in Rome in the first century. His writings are contained in a publication, Ten Books of Architecture. In them he describes and discusses the properties and the utilization of building materials. Much of what he has to say is almost identical with what can be found in certain college textbooks now being used in materials courses. Not only the same information but also the same methods of approach to problems are being given some of our engineering students today in their instruction in materials that was being given 2000 years ago. Of course, the physical and mechanical properties of certain natural building materials have not changed appreciably since the days of Vitrivius. Granites and limestones are about as they were in the first century, and the botanical processes influencing the properties of oak and cedar have not altered in 20 centuries. During the 2000-year interval the properties of some man-made materials have not been improved much either. The strength of concrete, for example, has changed less than an order of magnitude, although potentially the change could be four orders of magnitude. Until only a few years ago the same comment was true for metals. However, the uses to which the materials are put, the demands upon them in modern design, and our understanding of their properties have altered greatly. As one example, our understanding of metals has now progressed to the point where fibers having strengths nearly equivalent to their theoretical maximum strength of a few million pounds per square inch can be produced. In other instances, new materials have been designed and produced to meet desired specifications. Revolutionary developments of this type have directed attention to the need for reconsideration of instruction in materials. At the outset, it should be recognized that programs in materials include not only the formal courses in college, but also on-the-job training and informal self-study after graduation. Our question is whether or not present-day education in materials is well adapted to adjust the outlook of the engineer to the current revolutionary developments that will greatly affect the utilization of materials a few decades hence.
Anson Marston Distinguished Professor of EngineeringVice-President, Iowa State UniversityASEE, Ames, Iowa