JOM named the Kalevala the Greatest Work of Materials Fiction

The Kalevala is ranked number one in the Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction, revealed by The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS).

The July 2015 JOM article, “A List Beyond Words”, provides insights into the materials connection of each selection in the top ten through reviews contributed by JOM readers. Lauri Holappa, Professor Emeritus, Aalto University, is the reviewer for The Kalevala and was instrumental in its nomination.

– It is said that The Kalevala can be understood as a journey of the spirit or the soul. Even materials like iron have a spirit. Ilmarinen, the smith, dialogues with the iron, and when hammering, he affords his own expertise to connect with the secret, hidden properties of the material. These are still today central issues of materials research – although the dialogue has moved ti the internet, and the "smiths" have sophisticated scientific instruments to reveal the material's secrets, Lauri Holappa, JOM Magazine.

The Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction, as compiled and reported by JOM, is as follows, in ascending order:

10. Days of Future Past: Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Published in 1981, this X-men graphic novel paints a bleak portrait of the year 2013, in which cruel repression against humans with mutant superpowers is enforced by the Sentinels. Many of the X-men in this story line have materials-enabled superpowers, including Wolverine, Colossus, and Magneto.

9. The Mysterious Island: Jules Verne
Five prisoners of war escape captivity during the American Civil War in a hot air balloon, only to crash on an uncharted island. The brilliant engineer, Cyrus Smith, is the hero of the book as he cleverly deploys the materials available to him to ensure that the group not only survives, but thrives.

8. Contact: Carl Sagan
An extraterrestrial civilization from the Vega star system embeds instructions and blueprints in a radio transmission to Earth for a machine designed to transport five people to an unknown location. A significant plot point is the process of extracting erbium from ore for a critical component of the machine.

7. A Song of Ice and Fire (series): George R.R. Martin
Warring dynasties try to lay claim to the ultimate seat of power, the Iron Throne—just one of the many references to the practical and symbolic importance of metalworking in the medieval society of Westeros.

6. Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand
In a dystopian future, Dagny Taggert, vice president of operations for Taggart Transcontinental, sets out to repair her railroad’s deteriorating Rio Norte Line. She turns to Hank Rearden and his Rearden Metal, a revolutionary alloy, to save her business, despite government interference and conspiracy against industrial progress.

5. Foundation (trilogy): Isaac Asimov
Having mathematically predicted the downfall of civilization, Hari Seldon establishes two Foundations to preserve humanity’s collective knowledge, using access to materials as a means to keep the spark of scientific ingenuity alive.

4. The Iliad: Homer
Metal defines many of the key plot points of this touchstone epic poem, set in the latter days of the Trojan War.

3. Cat’s Cradle: Kurt Vonnegut    
Felix Hoenikker, an eccentric scientist, secretly invents ice-nine, a substance with the potential of solidifying all the water on earth. As the story unfolds, it demonstrates how profoundly materials science can change the world and how abuse of that power can have disastrous, unintended consequences.

2. Lord of the Rings (trilogy): J.R.R. Tolkien
In the fictional realm of Middle Earth, Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit, embarks on a treacherous quest to destroy the One Ring, an ancient weapon forged by the Dark Lord Sauron to conquer the world. The One Ring is just one example of how magical metal and metalworking in Lord of the Rings play a key role in advancing the action of the story.

1.The Kalevala: Elias Lönnrot
The national epic poem of Finland, The Kalevala elevates iron to the same stature as the four classical elements of earth, air, fire and water as a reflection of its importance to Finnish history and culture.

The quest to identify the Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction began in September 2014, when JOM readers were asked to nominate works of fiction with strong connections to minerals, metals, and materials science and engineering. The resulting initial list of 62 nominees was then whittled down to a roster of the 25 strongest candidates, as determined by an ad hoc committee appointed by the TMS Board of Directors. Voting on the final top ten by the minerals, metals, and materials science and engineering community opened on February 1 and closed March 20, 2015.

“Compiling any ‘greatest of’ list is always a challenge. However, I believe that the high level of engagement of JOM readers makes the Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction very representative of their professional pride and personal interests,” said James. J. Robinson, TMS Executive Director. “Some of the works that made the top ten are a little surprising, and like all such lists, I’m sure this one will be open to friendly debate. But, that’s part of the fun and another example of how TMS advances and builds a sense of community among the professionals that it serves.”

Read the article:

The original artwork was created by David Rasel, TMS Media Manager, for JOM.

About TMS
The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) is a member-driven international professional society dedicated to fostering the exchange of learning and ideas across the entire range of materials science and engineering, from minerals processing and primary metals production, to basic research and the advanced applications of materials. Included among its nearly 13,000 professional and student members are metallurgical and materials engineers, scientists, researchers, educators, and administrators from more than 70 countries on six continents. For more information on TMS, visit

About JOM
JOM is a technical journal and the member magazine of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS). Through scholarly papers, features, and member news, JOM reports impactful work across the minerals, metals, and materials science and engineering life cycle, from groundbreaking laboratory discoveries, to emerging development and design techniques, to state-of-the-art processing, fabrication, and applications, to recycling of metals, ceramics, plastics, composites, and other materials. JOM is published monthly by Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (Springer), in cooperation with TMS.

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