A Brief History of the Department of Materials

The Department of Metallurgy was founded in the mid 1950s by Professor Hume-Rothery. In the early 1950s , Hume-Rothery was a Reader in Metallurgy in the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, and Metallurgy was taught as an option in the Chemistry degree. In rapid succession, during the second half of the 1950s, the Wolfson Chair in Metallurgy was established, Hume-Rothery was appointed as the first Wolfson Professor, an independent Department of Metallurgy was set up with a grant from the General Board, a separate final honours school in Metallurgy was established, the first students entered the course in 1960. The department was initially housed in a hut in Keble Road, until new accommodation, the Hume-Rothery building was completed in 1960. Since then, the department has gradually expanded into a total of almost 8,000 sq m , distributed over 7 buildings in the Keble Road Triangle, just north of the city centre. In December 1999, it acquired another 6,500 sq m, distributed over more than 10 buildings at the (subsequently renamed) Oxford University Begbroke Science Park (OUBSP), 5 miles away, just north of the ring road, half occupied by the departments industry-linked research, and half occupied by high-tech spin-out materials related companies.

At first the Metallurgy course was heavily based on Chemistry, but gradually the Chemistry input decreased, and it is now quite small. The Metallurgy degree was substantially revamped in the late 1960s, following Professor Hume-Rothery's retirement. At that time the course and the department were both renamed Metallurgy and the Science of Materials (MSOM). The degree was again substantially revamped in the mid-1990s, following Professor Hirsch's retirement. At this time the department was renamed Materials and the course was renamed Materials Science in 2001.

A second degree course in Metallurgy, Economics and Management, later renamed Materials, Economics and Management (MEM) was introduced in the mid 1970s in response to the government’s Dainton report, which was aimed at increasing management studies at UK universities. MEM was effectively an option within MSOM and the two degrees shared a common intake and common first year teaching. A third degree, Engineering and Materials (EMS) was introduced in the late 1980s in response to another government initiative, in this case designed to enhance technology teaching at UK universities. EMS was effectively an option within Engineering, and shared a common intake and common first year teaching with the three other Engineering degrees then available at Oxford.