Material Matters: The Past and Present of the Rare Earth Elements Essential to Our Future

Public Events
Wednesday, December 8, 2021
4:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m. PST (UTC -8)

Institute research curator Roger Turner discusses how science and history can teach us to produce needed rare earth metals while minimizing harm to humans and the environment.

Today’s electronics and the green energy technologies we’ll need for the future depend upon rare earth metals. But producing these metals in the past often involved exploitation and harm. The surprisingly global story of rare earths shows how science and history can help us imagine better ways forward.

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Oxides of rare earth elements

Rare earth oxides from top center: praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium, and gadolinium.

Peggy Greb, U.S. Department of Agriculture


About the Speaker

Roger Turner is an historian and storyteller. His particular scholarly expertise is in 20th-century atmospheric science, scientific instruments, and environmental monitoring.

At the Science History Institute, Roger helped launch the student role-playing game Science Matters: The Case of Rare Earth Elements, worked on the film The Instrumental Chemist, developed the playful online experience Instruments of Change, and contributes to museum exhibits. He wrote and curated Mechanochemistry: The Science of Crush for Google Arts & Culture.

This is a Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society (SCALACS) event presented under a Senior Chemists Mini Grant.