Milestones of Matter
From iron to superconductors, material's greatest hits -L.G.
Paleolithic humans fire ceramic figures from clay, showing early aptitude in materials processing.
5,000 B.C. People near modernday Turkey learn they can not only extract liquid copper from malachite and azurlte, but also cast it into various shapes.
3,000 B.C. Metal workers In modem Syria and Turkey create bronzeone of the first alloys— by adding tin ore to copper ore.
2,500 B.C. Ancient Egyptians make glass beads, the earliest-known examples of the material. Roughly 2,400 years later, glass is blown Into watertight vessels.
2,000 B.C. People In Anatolia and Persia begin producing Iron from metal ores.
1750 Britain grants the first glue patent for an adhesive derived from fish. Cascades of natural and synthetic glues follow in its sticky footsteps.
1755 English engineer John Smeaton invents modern concrete while looking for a material that would not degrade In water.
1839 Charles Goodyear drops gum on a hot stove, discovering vulcanization and, ultimately, weatherproof rubber The first product: ruffled shirts for men.
1856 Henry Bessemer patents a process for melting low-carbon iron into a better quality steel that can be mass-produced.
1856 English chemist Alexander Parkes patents the first synthetic plastic, derived from cotton or wood cellulose. Plastic soon replaces ivory in billiard balls.
1934 A team led by Wallace Hume Carothers pulls strands of nylon, the first synthetic fiber, from a test tube. It’s Initially used in toothbrush bristles.
1935 Louis Minsk of Eastman Kodak develops a polymer for the first photo-resist, capable of transferring a pattern onto a substrate, enabling the manufacture of semiconductors.
1938 While researching new refrigerants at DuPont, chemist Roy Plunkett discovers one of the samples polymerized. The result: nonstick, heat-resistant Teflon.
1958 At Texas Instruments, Jack Kilby builds the first integrated circuit, or microchip, by combining capacitors, resistors, diodes, and transistors onto a slice of germanium.
1958 Physicist Roger Bacon makes inch-long graphite filaments, spurring him to create the highperformance carbon fibers that reinforce aircraft and missiles.
1962 Electrical engineer Nick Holonyak, Jr., invents the first visiblespectrum light-emitting diode (LED). The red light jumps from calculators to traffic signals and billboards.
1964 DuPont scientist Stephanie Kwolek creates a strong, stiff polymer that leads to bullet-stopping Kevlar.
1970 Researchers at Coming produce glass optical fiber with very low light loss, making telecommunications and the Internet possible.
1977 Chemists develop organic polymers that can conduct electricity, laying the foundation for organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs).
1985 Researchers discover extremely stable, 60-atom carbon molecules resembling geodesic domes. They call them buckyballs, after architect R. Buckminster Fuller.
1986 A team at IBM creates a ceramic that conducts electricity at very high temperatures, prompting a race to find even hotter superconductors.
1991 A Japanese scientist finds carbon nanotubes, revered for their superior mechanical properties.
1997 A German botanist describes the selfcleaning properties of lotus leaves, ushering In an era of superhydrophoblc materials.
2000 Physicists demonstrate metamaterials that can manipulate electromagnetic radiation, kicking off the quest for an Invisibility cloak.
2004 Scientists use sticky tape to Isolate graphene from graphite. The one-atom-thick carbon sheet Is the thinnest and strongest material known and an excellent conductor.
2007 By merging the stickIng power of geckos and mussels, seientlsts at Northwestern University develop an adhesive that works in both dry and wet conditions.