In this tribute to K Alex Müller, I describe how his early insights have influenced future decades of research on perovskite ferroelectrics and more broadly transition metal oxides (TMOs) and related quantum materials. I use his influence on my own research journey to discuss impacts in three areas: structural phase transitions, precursor structure, and quantum paraelectricity. I emphasize materials functionality in ground, metastable, and excited states arising from competitions among lattice, charge, and spin degrees of freedom, which results in highly tunable landscapes and complex networks of multiscale configurations controlling macroscopic functions. I discuss competitions between short- and long-range forces as particularly important in TMOs (and related materials classes) because of their localized and directional metal orbitals and the polarizable oxygen ions. I emphasize crucial consequences of elasticity and metal–oxygen charge transfer.
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