History [of fracture]
Fracture has been a critical issue throughout the history of engineering. Its scientific study was particularly stimulated by failures of various types of ships and aircraft in the 1940s and 1950s, and many quantitative empirical results were obtained, so that by the 1960s ductile fracture as an engineering issue became fairly well understood. In the 1980s, ideas about fractals suggested new interpretations of fracture surfaces, and in the past few years, various models of fracture based on ideas from statistical physics have been tried. Atomic-level computer experiments on fracture began in earnest in the late 1980s, but only very recently has it been possible to include enough atoms to even begin addressing questions about the structure of cracks.