How did materials help us become what we are today? Join Professor Stephen L. Sass as he discusses his book, The Substance of Civilization: Materials and Human History From the Stone Age to the Age of Silicon.

Materials enabled revolutionary advances in how we live, work, fight and travel, hence the naming of eras after them -- Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. This talk explores the role of materials in the development of modern industrial civilizations by putting technology into an historical and human context, examining the advances made possible by innovations with materials.

Connections between critical developments and events are identified, for example, in the fourth millennium BCE, among materials, agriculture and written languages; and, at the close of the second millennium BCE, among the Exodus of the Hebrews, the chaos in the Eastern Mediterranean and the onset of the Iron Age.

The remarkable inventions that emerged from China in the first millennium of the Common Era will be highlighted. Materials as revolutionary, and frequently disruptive, agents of change will be emphasized. Finally, it will be pointed out that throughout history, shortages have driven innovation, implying that the solutions to the shortages we face today may lead to developments that we cannot even imagine. Beautiful artifacts of clay, bronze, gold and glass illustrate the lecture.

Speakers