The Substance of Civilization

The Substance of Civilization

Materials and Human History from the Stone Age to the Age of Silicon

Stephen L. Sass


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This fascinating book “is a good starting place to develop an appreciation for the history and nature of materials science” (Scientific American).
The story of human civilization can be read most deeply in the materials we have found, created, used, and abused. They have dictated how we build, eat, communicate, wage war, create art, travel, and worship. Some, such as stone, iron, and bronze, lend their names to the ages. Others, such as gold, silver, and diamond, contributed to the rise and fall of empires. How would history have unfolded without glass, paper, steel, cement, or gunpowder?
The impulse to master our material world has guided the course of history since the dawn of time. In The Substance of Civilization, Sass demonstrates how substances and civilizations have evolved together. Moving from the Stone Age to the Age of Silicon, from the days of prehistoric survival to the cutting edge of nanotechnology, this fascinating and accessible book connects the worlds of minerals and molecules to the sweep of human history, and predicts what materials will dominate the century ahead.
“Sass, a professor at Cornell University and a writer of both affability and precision, bridges the divide between history and science . . . [and] provides diverse and illuminating examples with unflagging and infectious enthusiasm.” —Booklist
“Gobs of wonderful trivia.” —Kirkus Reviews


Stephen L. Sass:
Stephen L. Sass is a professor of materials science and engineering at Cornell University, where he has won a number of teaching awards. He currently lives in Ithaca, New York.