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The history of human development is also the story of revolutionary materials. The fundamental importance of materials is made clear from the naming of ages of civilisation, the Stone, Iron and Bronze Age, with each new era being brought about by a new material. The twentieth century is often referred to as the Silicon Age in reference to the materials breakthrough that gave rise to the computer, mobile phone and the internet. The twentieth century also saw the development of celluloid, which ushered in the biggest change in visual culture for a thousand of years: cinema. The development of aluminium alloys and nickel superalloys by materials scientists allowed us to fly cheaply and changed the rate at which cultures collided. This selection is dedicated to the many materials that have had far-reaching historical, cultural and economic effects.