Free Textbook Broadens Understanding of Materials Science in Cultural Context

LibraryPress@UF announces publication of The Impact of Materials on Society (IMOS), a free, full-length textbook for undergraduate students. Bridging STEM and the humanities, this book explores the complex interplay between human cultures and everyday materials like clay, glass, concrete, steel, and plastic.IMOS book cover

The project was led by University of Florida (UF) Rhines Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Dr. Kevin Jones and UF Associate Director of the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere Dr. Sophia Acord. In partnership with the Materials Research Society, Acord and Jones designed the IMOS course aligned with the text, which today enrolls about 175 undergraduate students each year at UF and an estimated 500 students nationwide.

As an exploration into materials and their relationship with technologies and social structures, the book offers perspectives from history, anthropology, media studies, and classics. The book begins with a foundational chapter on clay by archaeologist Dr. Susan D. Gillespie, who looks back to Neolithic people’s uses of earth—particularly for housing and pottery—and how humans’ interdependency with this material has lasted over thousands of years. Other chapters consider topics such as the evolution of gold and silver as currency and modern advertising’s role in the adoption of materials such as plastic.

Publication is supported by Affordable UF, a campus initiative co-led by the Center for Teaching Excellence, the George A. Smathers Libraries, and Business Services. This program strives to reduce the cost of course materials for students, including partnerships with UF instructors to create open educational resources (OER) that may be widely shared and adapted. Other Affordable UF projects include Xronos, an initiative launched by the Department of Math that saves students over $300,000 each year (

The IMOS textbook is freely available online ( and may be purchased in hardback or paperback formats. Supplemental materials, including links to videos, handouts, and lecture slides, are also available (

Major support for the project over nearly ten years has come from federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation and Department of Defense, as well as the University of Florida and Materials Research Society. Joining Jones and Acord as editors are Marsha Bryant (UF Department of English), as well as Debra Dauphin-Jones and Pamela Hupp. Chapter authors include UF scholars Susan D. Gillespie, Kenneth E. Sassaman, Mary Ann Eaverly, Florin Curta, and Sean Adams, as well as University of Liverpool historian Bonnie Effros.

LibraryPress@UF is an imprint of the University of Florida Smathers Libraries and the University of Florida Press.