We humans have employed and improved materials for millennia, but it required the Industrial Revolution of the last century to birth the systematic, science-based development of materials. During this time, effort expended in understanding the process-microstructure-properties relationships of materials conferred great economic and military advantage upon the successful. The introduction of machine power in this era created great leverage for improvements in the strength, ductility, corrosion resistance, formability, and similar properties of materials. Response to this opportunity led to the emergence of the materials profession. Stimulated by opportunity, materials scientists and engineers of the day met many of the challenges by first understanding and then controlling the composition and microstructure of materials. In the process, they defined the materials-engineering profession and left their names as a part of its vocabulary: Martens(ite), Bain(ite), Austen(ite), Schmid, Bessemer, Charpy, and Jomminy, to name a few. In fact the understanding and control of microstructure is the hallmark of materials science and engineering. Of course the ancient art of finding, mining, concentrating, and refining materials from the earth's crust does not apply to this definition since we wish to focus on the engineering of materials.
Five decades ago, a new chapter in the evolution of this profession began by the invention of the transistor. This invention and the development of integrated circuitry that followed from it spawned a new era of materials achievement, again stimulated by the enormous economic and performance gains available. In this arena however, the object of the game was to completely eliminate microstructure while doing away with impurities, save for a desired few, to levels previously unimagined. Today a material thus prepared is a blank slate upon which we can write the microstructure of an integrated circuit.