A few quotes from J E Gordon’s The New Science of Strong Materials:
- … metallurgists and metal engineers are apt to be practical and down-to-earth people who stand no nonsense, but the non-metallurgists are probably more lyrical and imaginative.
- Although the new techniques will be very sophisticated in many ways perhaps we may be able to get back to the patient humility of the craftsman in the face of his materials which has got lost somewhere in our arrogant factories. This might result in more satisfying employment and perhaps in less industrial ugliness. If this is so, then the gain in human happiness will be very great.
- A long and mostly gruesome book could, and perhaps should, be written about the superstitions associated with the making and fabrication of materials. In ancient Babylon the making of glass required the use of human embryos; Japanese swords were said to have been quenched by plunging them, red-hot, into the bodies of living prisoners. Cases of burying victims in the foundations of buildings and bridges were common — in Roman times a doll was substituted. All this was more or less in line with a good deal of primitive anthropology and seems to centre on the idea that the new structure should have a life of its own.
Does the second quote sound remotely Marxian?
Update — from the comments: Thanks to my colleague Rajesh for the alternative perspective on metallurgists — this time around from another classic — that of Alan Cottrell’s Introduction to Metallurgy:
Because of their great practical value and scientific interest, metals lie at the cross-roads of many scientific and technological disciplines. Chemists are interested in the oxidation and reduction of metals, the catalytic properties of metals and the laws by which metals combine together to form alloys. Chemical engineers apply their general priciples of chemical processing to the production of pure metals from ores. Solid-state physicists are fascinated by the electronic and atomic structures of metals and by the ways in which these structures determine the characteristic properties of metals and alloys. Mechanical engineers are interested in the plastic working of metals, structural engineers in the mechanical performance of metals in practical use, the electrical engineers in all the special electrical and magnetic properties obtainable from metallic materials.
The contribution to the science and technology of metals made by people in these field are immensely valuable. Nevertheless, and quite naturally, each of them sees only his own side of the subject. The essential task of the metallurgist is to complement and coordinate the work of these specialists by acting as a general practitioner over the whole field…. A metallurgist, however much he may specialize in practice, must be able, when required, to take this wide, all-embracing view.