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That most elementary question 'What is a Metal ?' has generated a long and surprising history of answers, dating back to the landmark discovery in 1807 of the (then) new metals potassium and sodium; reported by Sir Humphry Davy in his Bakerian Lecture of that year. But why is it that some chemical elements and substances are metals, those magnificent conductors of electricity, while others are insulating, stubbornly resistive non-conductors ? And why is it that the very best conductor of electricity at low temperatures, a superconductor, is not a shiny metal but a dull black, chemically complex ceramic oxide. Paradoxically, this brittle ceramic at room temperature could hardly be called a metal!

So, what is this thing called "Metal " ?

Professor Peter Edwards FRS was awarded the Bakerian Prize for his decisive contributions to the physics, chemistry and materials science of condensed matter including his work on the metal-to-insulator transition.

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Added by Royal Society Events on February 3, 2012