The “new vacuum technology” began in 1950 with the development of the Bayard–Alpert gauge which ended the limitation on the lowest measurable pressure that had existed for more than two decades. This led to the development of ultrahigh vacuum technology and the conversion of vacuum methodology from an art to a science. The Committee on Vacuum Technology, which was the precursor to the American Vacuum Society (AVS), was born three years later. This article considers the history, and possible future, of vacuum science and technology, and serves to introduce the following five articles which review the major advances in vacuum science and technology during the 50 years of the lifetime of the AVS.

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