The following article is an edited transcript based on the MRS Medal presentation given by C. Mathew Mate of IBM Almaden Research Center on November 29, 2001, at the Materials Research Society Fall Meeting in Boston. Mate received the Medal for his “pioneering studies of friction at the atomic and molecular levels.” This presentation describes some of his efforts at understanding friction at the atomic level. The starting point for the author was the invention of the friction force microscope and the first observation of atomic-scale friction in 1987. Soon afterward came other applications of force microscopy, leading toward a greater understanding of friction, lubrication, and wear. These studies also have had an impact on the understanding of lubricant films in disk drives and are now aiding the development of nanoscale devices such as the “molecular raft,” an 8-Å-thick island of squalane floating on a thicker squalane film that could potentially be used to transport nanoscale objects.