is an account of the birth and evolution of surface science as an
interdisciplinary research area. Surface science emanated
from the confluence of concepts and tools in physics and chemistry
with technological innovations that made it possible to determine
the structure and properties of surfaces and interfaces and
the dynamics of chemical reactions at surfaces. The combination in the
1960s and 1970s of ultra-high-vacuum (i.e., P < 10
7 Pascal or 10
9 Torr) technology
with the recognition that electrons in the energy range from
50 to 500 eV exhibited inelastic collision mean free paths
of the order of a few angstroms fostered an explosion of activity.
The results were a reformulation of the theory of electron solid
scattering, the nearly universal use of electron spectroscopies for surface
characterization, the rise of surface science as an independent
interdisciplinary research area, and the emergence of the American
Vacuum Society (AVS) as a major international scientific society.
The rise of microelectronics in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in huge
increases in computational power. These increases enabled more
complex experiments and the utilization of density functional theory
for the quantitative prediction of surface structure and dynamics.
Development of scanning-probe microscopies in the 1990s led to
atomic-resolution images of macroscopic surfaces and
interfaces as well as videos of atoms moving about on surfaces during
growth and diffusion. Scanning probes have since brought
solid-liquid interfaces into the realm of atomic-level surface science, expanding
its scope to more complex systems, including fragile biological
materials and processes.