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The names of three archaeological eras are described by their dominant structural materials: the stone age, the bronze age, and the iron age. While the metals in the bronze age were obtained by smelting, early use of iron relied on finding the metallic form, mostly from meteorites. Its scarcity, together with its softness and tendency to corrode, limited its application. With time, however, extraction methods from ores and techniques such as surface hardening to improve the properties, broadened the application of iron. The first steel was made in the early iron ages but did not become a significant commodity until the middle of the nineteenth century when Henry Bessemer invented a new steelmaking process, which started the second phase of the industrial revolution. Around the same time, the introduction of microscopic investigation of materials led to a better understanding of steel properties and soon thereafter books on the metallography of steel were being published.

Metallography has a long tradition in Brazil going back to the early twentieth century. Metallography became a pillar in quality control of the construction materials used in the rapid expansion of the Brazilian railway system in the late 1920s. At this time, Hubertus Colpaert, at the Institute of Technological Research in São Paulo, began systematic work on the study of the metallographic characteristics of ferrous metals. In 1951, this work resulted in the publication of the book Macrographic and Micrographic Metallography of Common Steel Products. This book offered a unique combination of a metallography atlas, manual of metallographic techniques, and introduction to the fundamentals of phase transformations and thermal treatment of these alloys, and quickly became the most important Brazilian reference book for those working on processing and treatment of ferrous alloys. A second and third editions of this book was published in 1959 and 1969, respectively.

Since the publication of the third edition, advanced microscopy techniques became widely available and a significant number of new steel products have been developed. These developments are reflected in the fourth edition of the book while maintaining the spirit of the original edition, being a unique combination of a metallography atlas, manual and textbook. For publication of the English edition, the title of the book was changed from the Portuguese original Metallography of Common Steel Products to Metallography of Steels: Interpretation of Structure and the Effect of Processing. Although this title better indicates that the book offers much more than metallography alone, it still does not fully reflect the rich content of the book.

The editor of the fourth edition, André Costa e Silva, is a professor at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in the Rio de Janeiro area, Brazil. He is an expert in the processing-properties-performance relations in steel with a focus on computational thermodynamics and its applications to steelmaking and advanced steel processing. He is also experienced in specification, inspection and failure analysis of metallic materials.

Ursula R. Kattner
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Materials Science and Engineering Division,
Thermodynamics and Kinetics Group

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