In its rawest form, a material is simply useful matter, which pretty much includes anything that can be utilised in some way, ranging from steel and concrete used in construction, through to gas, food and fertilisers used in production, and stretching as far as ivory and porcelain sold in small indigenous marketplaces. In its simplest form, a material is a material as soon as somebody uses it – simple enough, isn’t it?
While the concept of a material may be easy enough to understand, more complex is their effect of the societies that use them. Materials shape the cultures that apply them and advances in new technology depend on innovation in materials. Think about the exciting new improvements spreading in the news surrounding graphene production and utilisation. Without new materials, there are limits to how far technology can progress, and so how far a society can grow and adapt.
In Materials: A Very Short Introduction, Christopher Hall introduces new readers to the history, progression and development of material production, from the early days of gold, sand and string, through revolutions in industrial production, and into more modern issues of sustainability. If you want to learn more about how societies develop and adapt, then this is the ideal book to add to your collection. To understand change, you need look no further than the materials behind the scenes.
This review was first published on WordPress for E&T magazine