Learn English – Why is it “materials science” instead of “material science”

attributive-nounsgrammatical-numbernouns

Does anyone know how the "s" at the end of "materials" in "materials science" came about? It seems like "material science" would be equivalent, and is more natural to say aloud. For comparison with a similar phrase, we usually say "computer science" instead of "computers science". Does anyone know the etymology?

Best Answer

It's materials science because material is also an adjective. The phrase material science, as opposed to, say, spiritual science, was used before people started studying the science of materials. Consider this Ngram:

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If you search in Google Books for "material science" before 1910, you get hits like

What does material science know about things of the soul?
The world of spirit outside material science.
Material science takes up the objects of the world and interprets them.

Presumably, the science of materials was named materials science to avoid confusion with this phrase.