The specialist is dead – long live the specialist!

How the nature of specialisation has changed.

We are familiar with the ever-growing number of specialisms and specialists which seem to saturate the modern world. They are nothing new, of course. Ever since man came down from the trees, there have been specialists – hunters, fishers, cooks, warriors, healers.

And in the modern world, specialists play a vital role. We would, for example, be in a dreadful place without the scientists who specialise in developing vaccines. On a slightly more prosaic level, I would much rather have a tooth removed by a qualified dentist than his or her predecessor, the notorious barber-surgeon.


Specialists for everything?

It is hard to argue against the fact of specialisation. Through history it is specialists who held the reins of power. For centuries it was soldiers, then in the middle ages it was lawyers. And because most lawyers were clerics, power rested with the church, an institution that specialised in wielding earthly power as well as spiritual.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, lawyers stayed near the top, and were joined by scientists and engineers. Perhaps the twentieth century was the era of big capital and accountants. The 21st certainly looks very much like the age of big tech, with hordes of specialist programmers.

Sometimes it can look as if the generalist has gone for good, and in the sense of the all-round “renaissance man” this might be true. But if you look around, the type of specialist is changing. More and more we get things done by collaborating, by merging specialisms together. It’s obvious in the field of computing and medical science, but it happens elsewhere too.


Metals support the World

Nowhere is this more the case than with metals, each of which requires specialist manipulation to maximise potential. Steel and Copper may be the most significant industrially; steel for its ubiquity in construction and manufacture, and copper for the multiplicity of alloys it can accommodate.

With alloys, the specialist in one metal really needs to be a specialist in others. How else can we understand that range of uses and tolerances of different alloys? With copper alloys you need a supplier familiar with all the characteristics of all the alloys made using copper. Only a specialist will do.

In fact, the modern specialist is rarely a specialist only one field. Doctors are specialists in many fields, even if they work mainly in one. Those who work with paints need to understand chemical behaviours even if they’re not chemists; and those who work with metals need a depth of knowledge about sourcing of raw materials, production processes and appropriate applications. Add to that an understanding of the way commodity markets impact on retail prices, via wholesale, and we are edging back to the multidisciplinarianism beloved of the Enlightenment.


Don’t cut corners - go to the specialist you need

Inevitably specialists come in for a bit of flack. Occasionally the odd politician makes disparaging comments about experts, but specialists are here to stay, and we should welcome the fact. After all, we are all a specialist of one sort or another. The real challenge is in finding the right one at the right time. Seek out the specialist who has the knowledge to advise you well, and the vision to do so honestly and fairly, time after time.


Advanced Alloys Ltd is a specialist supplier of products made from the highest quality alloys of copper, brass, bronze and zinc. They have an exhaustive range of products suitable for all industries. Alloys can be delivered in wire, tube, sheet or bar form, and cut, bent or manipulated as required. An experienced logistics team makes sure that products reach their destination in perfect condition and on time every time.

Telephone: 023 8061 8891 Email:



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