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Education in Materials for the civil engineer has posed a continuing problem for those of us engaged in teaching both specific work in materials and the professional design courses. The problems arise from the number and the diversity of characteristics in the materials the civil engineer uses and from the fact that these materials all are complex in composition and structure. Our interests extend from basic theories of behavior of materials in their simplest form through the mechanics of the relations of properties to the strength and stiffness of large structures. Our problem lies in the selection of the pertinent subject matter to prepare the civil engineer for his functions. In this instance the question is how best to give him the necessary understanding of principles and methods of application that will enable him to keep abreast of and contribute to new developments throughout his career. These problems are not new nor do they differ in principle from what they always have been. In the entire history of engineering education we have had an expanding body of technical knowledge. New theories and new materials, new principles, new applications, have always been present; what is accepted as a routine matter today was once in the forefront of research. The new theories of today, when proven as to their validity and utility to the engineer, will also become an accepted part of our engineering education. Educational requirements in materials must be based upon recognition of the role the subject will play in the student's career. The civil engineer must be prepared to choose a particular material for a given situation and then, having selected the material, he must decide how to use it under the conditions of loading and environment that are anticipated. What material to use, and how to use it satisfactorily, are the questions to be answered. His answers to these questions are reached by weighing all the evidence that is available to him concerning properties. This evidence comes from basic science, the materials and structural laboratories, experience with materials in service, and analyses which relate measured properties of the material to the forces and environment acting on the structure. From this synthesis of information we arrive at design decisions.
Lepper, Henry A.
Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, Md.