By definition, a classic text is one that holds up well over time. Historically, classic physics texts have had very long lifetimes, and have typically gone many years without revision. While changes in the economics of publishing push authors to create new editions of textbooks with an alarming frequency, it is often not clear that these new editions are necessary.

Over six years ago, Rolf Hummel published a very distinctive new book, Understanding Materials Science. This book was unusual in providing both a significant historical treatment of the developments and influence of materials in society, as well as a quantitative primer on the key physics, chemistry, and engineering behind our current understanding of materials science. Hummel’s effort received well-earned accolades from reviewers who recognized this as much more than either a traditional textbook or a typical popular science treatment alone. While the text certainly was not perfect from either...

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