THE DEFINITION of the newly coined word “rheology” in the constitution of the Society of Rheology, when it was founded in 1929 under Eugene C. Bingham of Lafayette College, was “fundamental and practical knowledge concerning the deformation or flow of matter.” As Markus Reiner recalled telling Bingham at the time, this word would appear to have the same meaning as the term continuum mechanics. An operational definition obtained by an examination of what most rheologists actually do would more likely lead to the conclusion that, as accurately as any scientific discipline can be defined, “rheology—a branch of mechanics—is the study of those properties of materials which determine their response to mechanical force,” a statement that appears in a brochure recently issued by the Society of Rheology. This more restricted view, the one that I shall take in delineating the area covered in this historical review, removes from consideration the more complicated flow and deformation problems usually discussed in fluid mechanics, hydrodynamics and elasticity.

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