Metal: How It Works

Metal: How It Works

Series 1



Here’s the story of the material world in three parts, starting with how metals changed human life from the Bronze Age onwards. Around 3300 BC, people began making tools from copper, which makes metal-working almost as old as writing.

Professor Mark Miodownik begins his story in the Middle East, smoothly moving from the Negev desert to Ironbridge in Shropshire and the eras of iron and steel. He’s keen on travel technology, venturing from bridge-building and railways to aluminium and aircraft, culminating in Rolls-Royce aero engines. Along the way our guide tells a handful of human stories and explores cases of material failure and metal fatigue.


In the first of three films telling the story of how mankind's knowledge of materials and their properties aided the development of civilisation, scientist Mark Miodownik charts how humans learned to use metals to their advantage. He explores early techniques for extracting copper from rocks, and explains how alloys such as steel rapidly expanded the range of tools, weapons and machines that mankind could create. He also analyses metals at an atomic level to reveal their more surprising properties, and discovers how crystals can be grown to survive in extreme environments - including the inside of a jet engine.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Mark Miodownik
Executive Producer Helen Thomas
Series Producer Jacqueline Smith
Documentary Education