Popular Science Monthly/Volume 21/October 1882/The Progress of American Mineralogy
|THE PROGRESS OF AMERICAN MINERALOGY.|
MR. PRESIDENT, and Fellow-Members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: The change in the Constitution effected at our last meeting, extending the scope of the Association and dividing it into nine sections, each with a vice-president, whose duty it is to deliver an address to the section over which he presides, has relieved the retiring President from attempting a general review of the progress of science during the past year.
I turn, therefore, to a more special subject, and invite your attention this evening to a sketch of the progress of American mineralogy, since the commencement of this century, with particular reference to the labors of some of the early workers in the science on this continent.
During the last quarter of the eighteenth century, while great activity existed and rapid advance was made in the study of chemistry and mineralogy in Europe, almost nothing was accomplished in this new country. It is true that students in other departments of science, especially members of the medical profession, in the cities of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, attempted to arouse an interest in mineralogy, believing that the diffusion of a knowledge of this science would be of the utmost importance in the material development of the country. There were, however, no text-books to aid the inquirer. There were no collections of minerals to stimulate the student. In the absence of these it was almost impossible that an interest in this science should be fostered, or that a spirit of investigation should be awakened.
As the first distinct beginning of the science, I may mention an association formed in 1798 in the city of New York, which assumed, as they expressed it, "the name and style of the American Mineralogical Society." It announced as its object "The Investigation of the Mineral and Fossil Bodies which compose the Fabric of the Globe, and more especially for the Natural and Chemical History of the Minerals and Fossils of the United States." The distinguished Dr. Samuel Latham Mitchill, who seems to have been a man of universal genius, was at once its first president, its librarian, and its cabinet-keeper. The committee of the society issued a circular in which, while expressing themselves "desirous of obtaining and diffusing by every means in their power a correct and extensive knowledge of the mineral treasures of their country, they earnestly solicited their fellow-citizens to communicate to them on all mineralogical subjects, but especially on the following," viz.:
This warlike demand seems to call more for the discovery of the materials for national defense than for the advancement of science, and, besides being a commentary on the spirit of the times, gives a rather humorous impression of their strangely inadequate conception of the science of mineralogy and its possible bearings on practical life. But in justice to them I should add that it is further announced that "specimens of ores, metals, coals, spars, gypsums, crystals, petrifactions, stones, earths, slates, clays, chalks, limestones, marbles, and every fossil substance that may be discovered or fall in the way of a traveler, which can throw light on the mineralogical history of America, will be examined and analyzed without cost, sufficient pieces, with the owner's leave, being reserved for placing in the society's collection." I have quoted the circular almost verbatim to give you some idea of the genuine though crude longings for knowledge felt by our early mineralogists, and also of the generous spirit in which they worked.
A still more forcible picture of the ignorance of the time is given by the elder Professor Silliman in 1818. "Notwithstanding the laudable efforts of a few gentlemen," he says, "to excite some taste for mineralogy, so little had been effected in forming collections, in kindling curiosity and diffusing information, that only fifteen years since (1803) it was a matter of extreme difficulty to obtain among ourselves even the names of the most common stones and minerals; and one might inquire earnestly and long before he could find any one to identify even quartz, feldspar, or hornblende among the simple minerals, or granite, porphyry, or trap among the rocks. We speak from experience, and well remember with what impatient, but almost despairing curiosity we eyed the bleak, naked ridges which impended over the valleys and plains that were the scenes of our youthful excursions. In vain did we doubt that the glittering spangles of mica and the still more alluring brilliancy of pyrites gave assurance of the existence of the precious metals in those substances, or that the cutting of glass by the garnet and by quartz proved that these minerals were the diamond; but, if they were not precious metals, and if they were not diamonds, we in vain inquired of our companions, and even of our teachers, what they were."
Such, then, was the state of knowledge in mineralogy here at the commencement of the century. A few American minerals, collected by travelers from time to time, had before this been taken to Europe for identification, but among these were discovered only two minerals new to science. The Moravian missionaries found at St. Paul, in Labrador, the beautiful species of feldspar called by Werner labrador-stein, which in more modern times we know under the name of labradorite. Klaproth, the most eminent analytical chemist of his time, discovered that the so-called fibrous barytes from Pennsylvania was the sulphate of the then newly discovered earth strontia. He thus, for the first time, identified the mineral species celestite which was subsequently found in various localities in Europe.
Although little had been accomplished in America previous to 1800, the first quarter of the new century was destined to show great development here in the study of mineralogy. During the early years of this quarter several collections of European minerals were brought to this country by American gentlemen who had availed themselves during a residence in Europe of the best opportunities for acquiring a knowledge of the science from the great masters of the subject in Germany and France. About this time also several colleges in the country had instituted chairs of chemistry and mineralogy, and a commencement was thus made in teaching these sciences in the higher schools. As the result of these influences the number of persons interested in mineralogy was largely increased, and an active search for minerals was initiated throughout all of the older United States and to a considerable extent also in Canada.
So energetically were these explorations followed up that in 1825 a "Catalogue of American Minerals" was published by Dr. Samuel Robinson, with their localities arranged geographically, and giving only such as were known to exist in the United States and the British Provinces. It formed an octavo volume of over three hundred pages. That much credit was due to many workers during this period, both in the field and in the laboratory, there can be no question, but among them all I find four men standing forth so prominently as leaders that I have thought it would be well for us to recall briefly something of the character of these men and their labors for the advancement of mineralogy in this country.
First among these I will mention Dr. Archibald Bruce. He was the son of Dr. William Bruce, a surgeon in the British army, and was born in New York in 1777. He was graduated at Columbia College; subsequently studied medicine, and in 1798 went to Edinburgh, where, in 1800, he obtained his doctor's degree from that university. He was early interested in natural science, and while still in college found, his biographer says, "the collection and examination of minerals—a pursuit not then at all attended to in this country—was his particular relief from other studies; for even during his recreation he was ever on the lookout for something new or instructing in mineralogy."
When he went to Europe he took with him a large number of American minerals, and, through exchanges with institutions and prominent mineralogists abroad, he established friendly relations with those most interested in his favorite science. After the completion of his medical studies, he traveled for two years on the Continent of Europe, making the acquaintance of the Abbé Haüy, and other eminent mineralogists, and collecting an extensive cabinet of valuable minerals, which, on his return to this country in 1803, he brought with him to New York. This collection, with another brought to New York about the same time by Mr. B. D. Perkins—both being made fully accessible to all interested in seeing them—contributed, it was said, more than any agencies had ever done before to excite in the public an active interest in the science of mineralogy. Besides this, Dr. Bruce entered into extensive correspondence with others interested in the subject, was active in visiting and discovering new mineral localities, and in advising, encouraging, and inspiring young mineralogists. Finally, after well considering the matter, he established the first purely scientific periodical ever published in America. This was called the "American Mineralogical Journal," and the first number of it was published in 1810. It contained original contributions, chiefly on mineralogy, from a number of investigators. "It was received," says the elder Silliman, "in this country and in Europe in a flattering manner; it excited at home great zeal and effort in support of the sciences which it fostered, and abroad it was hailed as the harbinger of our future exertions." But alas! it was in advance of the age, and, after struggling for several years, was given up on the publication of the fourth number. Possibly it would have continued longer had it not been for the failing health of its founder.
This journal contained several important papers by Dr. Bruce; among them, the investigation and description of two new mineral species, the native magnesia of Hoboken and the red zinc oxide of Sussex County, New Jersey. These are the first American species described by an American mineralogist. So thoroughly was the work done by Bruce, that these species remain to-day essentially as he described them, and his papers may well be studied by mineralogists now as models of accuracy and clearness of statement. . . .
I have mentioned that the importation and exhibition of collections of minerals from Europe had contributed much to excite an interest in the study of mineralogy. It was necessary to have known minerals for study and comparison in order properly to determine those obtained by exploration here. In 1805 Colonel George Gibbs, of Rhode Island, for many years a resident in Europe, returned from his travels with a collection of minerals, the most extensive and valuable ever brought to America. Colonel Gibbs was a zealous cultivator of mineralogy, and, fortunately for science, a young man of wealth. He used his money freely for the purchase of whole cabinets, as well as in personal explorations in search for minerals.
The larger part of his collection was made by the purchase of two famous European cabinets: one from the heirs of Gigot d'Orcy, a noted French collector, and said to have been the result of forty years' labor; the other from Count Gregoire de Razamowsky, a Russian nobleman, long resident in Switzerland. D'Orcy's cabinet numbered over four thousand specimens, chiefly from France, Germany, Italy, and Great Britain; Razamowsky's contained about six thousand specimens from the Russian Empire, and the remainder principally from Germany and Switzerland; in all, with the other collections made by Colonel Gibbs, it is said that more than twenty thousand specimens were brought by him to this country.
In 1807 a portion of this collection was opened in Newport, and many interested in mineralogy made pilgrimages there, to view the treasures it contained. Among others was Professor Silliman, who states, in his diary, that he spent many weeks in studying the minerals with Colonel Gibbs, finding in the latter "a scientific friend and a professional instructor and guide." That Colonel Gibbs reciprocated Professor. Silliman's feelings of friendship there can be no doubt, for, after various offers to deposit his collection for exhibition in Boston, New York, and elsewhere, to the great surprise of Professor Silliman, he proposed to open the cabinet at Yale College, provided rooms should be fitted up for its reception.
The proposition was promptly responded to by the authorities of the college, and in 1810, 1811, and 1812, under the personal supervision of Colonel Gibbs, it was opened and arranged, and generously placed at the disposition of the institution and the public. The opening of this collection in New Haven formed an important epoch in the history of the college, and gave a powerful impetus to science throughout the country. It was not only studied by the pupils of the college, but it was visited by travelers from all parts of the United States.
In 1825 the collection had for fifteen years been exhibited without any advantage to the owner, other than the satisfaction of observing the great amount of good which was effected by the knowledge it disseminated and the enthusiasm with which it inspired students. Colonel Gibbs then offered the whole for sale, giving the college the preference as purchaser. Fortunately, and mainly through the influence of Professor Silliman, the institution succeeded in raising the funds ($20,000) necessary for its purchase, and the ownership of this collection has exercised a most important influence in the development of natural science at New Haven.
Colonel Gibbs, however, did not confine himself to the collection of minerals in Europe. On his return to this country he made extensive journeys and opened up new mineral localities, giving his time and specimens freely to aid others who were interested in this special study. At Yale, as an incentive to students, he for many years offered prizes for superiority of attainments in mineralogical knowledge and for services rendered to the science by useful discoveries and observations.
He published valuable papers both in the "American Mineralogical Journal" and the "American Journal of Science," and did much by his counsel and co-operation to support these publications. Indeed, it was from Colonel Gibbs that Professor Silliman first received the suggestion that he should institute a new journal of science, in order that the advantages already gained by the short-lived "Mineralogical Journal" might be secured, and further progress for science might be made. . . .
Much as had been accomplished by the free exhibition of cabinets and the explorations and investigations of enthusiastic workers in mineralogy during the years from 1805 to 1815, a great drawback was now felt to the progress of the science from the want of text-books. Most of the literature of the subject was in German and French, but the works of the French and German authors had not then been translated, and consequently were accessible only to the few who were acquainted with these languages.
In English there were not many treatises on the subject. That by Richard Kir wan, the eminent Irish mineralogist of the last century, was a renowned work in its day, but, as the last edition of it had been published in 1794, it was already too old to be of much service to the student. Jameson's treatise was somewhat more recent (1804), but its great fullness and exclusive devotion to the Wernerian system made it an undesirable book for beginners, aside from the fact that its price was such that few students in those days could afford to buy it. So much progress had been made at home and abroad, that a work was needed here which should include the modern discoveries, and one also which should gather up the scattered facts already published in regard to American minerals.
Fortunately for the further progress of science in this country, this was done by Professor Parker Cleaveland. His work was published in 1816, and was entitled "An Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology."
Professor Cleaveland was Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Bowdoin College, and, like many other professors of science in the early history of American colleges, was charged by the trustees to lecture also on mineralogy and chemistry. He was an enthusiastic student of mineralogy, was well acquainted with the literature of the science in various languages, had been a successful teacher of the subject for many years, and withal was both an explorer and investigator, and held intimate relations with the leading mineralogists of the day. The work was modeled on the general plan of Brongniart, combining the excellences of both the French and German schools, and gave in detail almost everything then known in regard to American minerals. It supplied the pressing need for a thorough, systematic, and American treatise on mineralogy, well suited to all classes of students, and it was written in such a masterly style that it won for its author the highest praise from the leading mineralogists of the world. "It brought," says Professor Silliman, "within the reach of the American student the excellences of Kirwan, Jameson, Haüy, Brochant, Brongniart, and Werner, and we are not ashamed," he says, "to have this work compared with those of these celebrated authors." His biographer states that "he received letters of respect and congratulation from Sir David Brewster, Sir Humphry Davy, and Dr. McCulloch, in England, from Berzelius, in Stockholm, Germar of Halle, from Brongniart, Baron Cuvier, and the Abbé Haüy, in Paris."
The work at once took rank as one of the leading authorities on the science, and was introduced as a class-book in the principal schools and colleges in America. The first edition was soon exhausted, and a new and revised edition, with more than a hundred pages of new matter, was published in 1822. The demand was so great that this likewise was soon out of print, and a third edition was called for by the public; but Professor Cleaveland had about this time become so engrossed in the administration of the affairs of the new Medical School at Brunswick that he was unable to respond to the call, having turned his thoughts and efforts in new directions.
Unfortunately for the science of mineralogy, in which he had obtained such eminence as an author and teacher, he no longer contributed actively to its progress, although he continued his work as lecturer on the science so long as he lived.
The last to be mentioned of these early leaders is Professor of science on this continent during the first half of the present century that his life-work is more or less familiar to all. But the important service he rendered in the early history of mineralogy deserves especial recognition here, not only for the work he himself did in the laboratory and the field, but because his enthusiasm and zeal were a constant inspiration to others.Silliman. His name is so intimately associated with the progress
Commencing with the historic "candle-box" of unlabeled stones which he took to Dr. Adam Seybert, of Philadelphia, to be named, he began with enthusiasm the acquisition of knowledge and the gathering of material to illustrate the mineral kingdom. During a residence in England and Scotland, in 1805-'6, he had opportunities to add to his information, and collect many specimens, chiefly from the mines of Derbyshire and Cornwall. On his return to America he at once applied the knowledge he had acquired in making an exploration of the mineral structure of the environs of New Haven, and read a paper on this subject to the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences in September, 1806.
In the following year he induced the corporation of the college to purchase the mineral collection of Mr. B. D. Perkins, of New York (already referred to), for one thousand dollars, thus placing the institution in possession of means for illustrating the science of mineralogy far in advance of anything it had before enjoyed.
The occurrence of the fall of the Weston meteorite in December, 1807, offered an opportunity for Professor Silliman to undertake, in connection with his colleague, Professor Kingsley, an investigation into the circumstances of the phenomenon, and the character of the stones which fell at that time. The results of this investigation were presented to the American Philosophical Society, and published in the "American Philosophical Transactions," in 1809. The diligence employed in obtaining all the facts possible from eye-witnesses of the occurrence, and the care and skill shown in the chemical and mineralogical examination of the meteorite, made this paper one of the most remarkable memoirs of the time, and attracted the attention of philosophers throughout the world.
As already stated, it was the personal enthusiasm and magnetic influence of Professor Silliman which led Colonel Gibbs to deposit his great cabinet of minerals in New Haven, under the care of his friend. It was due to the same qualities in Professor Silliman that the college secured the permanent possession of this invaluable collection, which probably has done more to create an interest in and disseminate a knowledge of mineralogy in this country than any other single agency.
The establishment of the "American Journal of Science" in 1818, now everywhere recognized as of inestimable value to all departments of science, was peculiarly helpful to mineralogy, and the early volumes are rich in articles on this subject. Professor Silliman's original contributions to science were more in chemistry and geology, but he also is the author of several important papers on mineralogy, and was the discoverer of the occurrence of native tungstic acid as a mineral species. For more than fifty years he continued as teacher in Yale College, and when he resigned his professorship, in 1853, he had the satisfaction to have as his successor in the department of mineralogy and geology Professor James D. Dana, who was already among the foremost mineralogists of the day, and whose published works, before and since his accession to this professorship, have done so much for the advancement of mineralogy. . . .
It will be inferred from what has been said of these pioneers that the developments and discoveries of minerals, during the first twenty-five years of the century, were due entirely to individual enthusiasm and private enterprise. Up to this time no aid had been received from either State or national governments, and in looking over the work accomplished during this period we are filled with wonder and admiration at the energy and rare devotion to science exhibited. The larger portion of the continent was an unbroken wilderness, and the facilities of communication even in the settled parts of the country were of the most primitive character. Yet at the present day, with our means of rapid transportation, many naturalists would hesitate to undertake the long journeys then made for purely scientific purposes.
Geologists as well as mineralogists will recall how much science is indebted to such men as William Maclure, James Pierce, Thomas Nuttall (the botanist), and others who made extensive trips through the whole territory east and in some instances to the west of the Mississippi River. Maclure not only devoted his time and money to making and publishing a geological survey of the United States and Canada, the first report of which was made in 1809, but to him the Academy of Natural Sciences, in Philadelphia, owes its first endowment.
I shall be pardoned, I trust, if I mention still another signal instance of private liberality in this connection. General Stephen Van Rensselaer, of New York, a generous patron of science, defrayed all the expenses of a geological survey of the country adjacent to the Erie Canal, including the making of a geological section from Lake Erie to the eastern coast of Massachusetts. This survey was under the charge of Professor Amos Eaton, with a competent corps of assistants, and was continued for four years, from 1820 to 1824, at a cost of many thousands of dollars. General Van Rensselaer was also the founder of the first school of technical science in this country—the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at Troy, which was placed under the charge of Professor Eaton. It may be interesting here, in these days of summer schools, to recall, although parenthetically, that what was probably the first Summer School of Science in the United States was established more than fifty years ago in connection with this institution. The school consisted of a flotilla of towed canal-boats, and the route was from Troy to Lake Erie. It took two months for the trip, and visited all important points on the way. Instruction by lectures and examinations was given in mineralogy, geology, botany, zoölogy, chemistry, experimental philosophy, and practical mathematics, particularly land surveying, harbor-surveying, and engineering. One of the largest boats in the flotilla was fitted up as a laboratory, with cabinets in mineralogy and geology, and also scientific books for reference. Students were taught the method of procuring specimens, and were required to make collections of whatever was interesting on the route.
The public mind was finally awakened to the importance of the work which these explorers and investigators had carried on single handed. Government now came to the aid of science. In 1824 one State Legislature, that of North Carolina, authorized a geological survey to be made. This example was followed in 1830 by Massachusetts, and soon after by New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and other States, and also by the national Government, until, as is now well known, the whole territory of the United States and Canada either has been or is in the process of being surveyed. Several of the State surveys published independent volumes on the mineralogy of their respective States, and these surveys have been a powerful auxiliary in extending our knowledge of the occurrence of minerals on this continent. The opening of mines and quarries throughout the country has also furnished abundant material for study. The large number of original contributions which have been published in the volumes of State surveys, the treatises by American authors, and the still larger number of memoirs and papers communicated to our academies of science and scientific journals, can not be even enumerated in this place; neither is it my purpose to attempt to give here a list of the names of those who have been actively engaged in making researches on American minerals. Still less can I attempt to give an account of the work that has been and is being done by living mineralogists. The sketch which I have presented of the four typical workers has in a measure shown the character of our early mineralogists, the earnest spirit in which they labored, and what they accomplished in the first quarter of the century. The point to which the science has reached in the last quarter of the century can not be unfamiliar to you all.
In the time that remains I desire to call your attention to some of the developments made in the field in which our mineralogists have worked. It was thought by many scientists in the first half of this century that our rocks seemed likely to afford less variety of mineral contents than the rocks of Europe. Further study, however, and more careful and extended observations, encourage us to believe that our mineral riches, even in variety of species, will compare favorably with those of other continents. Already fully one half of the known mineral species have been found here. The present number of known minerals is variously estimated to be from seven hundred to one thousand. There have been described, as occurring here, nearly three hundred supposed new American minerals. Of these, perhaps one quarter are new to science, and the remainder have either been proved to be identical with species already described, or their characters are so imperfectly given that further investigation is needed to ascertain what they are. Among these new minerals are some of great interest to science. . . .
In comparing the minerals found in America with those of Europe, although interesting minor variations are observed, it can hardly be expected that very marked differences should exist. This is, of course, due to the fact that, in the inorganic kingdom, Nature has everywhere to do with the same elements, under essentially like conditions. A large number of remarkable analogies between the minerals of the two continents will occur to anyone familiar with the subject, as, for example, the character of the occurrence of individual minerals in the rocks of the Northeastern United States and Canada as compared with those of Norway and Sweden, and numberless instances of like association of minerals in various parts of Europe find their counterparts here.
A marked feature of American minerals is the grand scale upon which crystallization has taken place, individual crystals of large size being very common. The granite veins of New England afford striking examples of this kind. We have common mica, in sheets a yard across; feldspar has been observed where a single cleavage-plane measured ten feet; gigantic hexagonal prisms of beryl, four feet long and more than two feet in diameter, and weighing over two tons, have been described; spodumene crystals, six to seven feet in length and a foot or more across, and masses of rock-crystal of immense size, have been found. Canada and New York have given crystals of apatite, phlogopite, and sphene, which for these species are of marvelous grandeur in dimensions. Many other American localities might be mentioned where giant crystals occur. While it is true that these are extraordinary instances, it is also true, as a general fact common to a very large proportion of the minerals found in this country, that the species occur in much larger crystals than those obtained from European localities.
Another point worthy of note is the occurrence in comparatively large quantities, and over wide areas, of some of the rarer elements as constituents of the minerals found. In illustration of this we have, among the rare earths, glucina combined with silica and alumina in the mineral beryl, occurring in large quantity and perhaps in a hundred or more places; zirconia, in the mineral zircon, is also very widespread in its range of occurrence as an original constituent of the older rocks, as well as a vein-mineral; localities are known which have furnished this rare species by the hundred-weight. The cerium earths are found largely in the mineral allanite, which occurs in so many places that it may be said to be a common mineral in the United States. These earths are also found in the rare phosphate monazite, a mineral that in America has a wide range of localities, and recently this species has been found in crystals of two, three, and, in one instance, of eight pounds in weight. Again, three new earth-metals—mosandrum, phillipium, and decipium—have been described as occurring with the cerium earths and yttria in the North Carolina samarskite. The rare alkali metal lithium, sometimes associated with the still rarer metals rubidium and cæsium, is found not only of widespread occurrence in our lithia micas, but the mineral spodumene, containing from five to eight per cent of lithia, occurs by the ton in at least one locality, and must be looked upon as one of the common American minerals, being found in the granite veins in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and as far south as North Carolina and Georgia. Lithia also is one of the constituents of the phosphate triphilite, and there are several localities known where this mineral occurs abundantly. Again, we have the frequent occurrence of some of the rare metals which form metallic acids: Columbium, the first metal, new to science, discovered in America, associated with its twin metal tantalum, is found in columbite in our granite veins from Maine to Georgia, a range of more than a thousand miles, in a score or more of places, and sometimes is obtained by the hundredweight at a single locality. The American variety of samarskite, another rare columbate, has also been found in masses of fifty pounds or more in weight, and these acids occur in still other American species. Molybdenum, both as sulphide and in the oxidized form as native molybdic acid and molybdate of lead, is found in many localities, and occasionally in large quantity. Quite recently vanadium compounds have been discovered in several places, and tungstates have also been observed over a wide range of country. Titanium has been found in enormous quantities in extensive deposits of titanic iron as well as in the form of rutile and in sphene. The rare metal tellurium occurs native in Colorado in one locality, where single masses of twenty-five pounds in weight have been taken out, and several new tellurium compounds have been found in our Western mines.
It is, perhaps, unnecessary to enumerate more fully the many occurrences of other rare elements in American minerals. Enough has already been said to show that important developments have been made in the discovery and investigation of the minerals found in our American rocks during the past eighty years. Nevertheless, it is but a commencement in the work. Only a very small portion of our territory has been explored with any thoroughness, and none of it exhaustively. The enormous production of the precious metals and the extensive deposits of ores of the more common metals which have been opened up during the past twenty or thirty years have placed us in the front rank as metal-producers, but we are still far behind Europe in the variety of minerals obtained from our mines. This may be due, in some instances, to the character of the veins or ore-deposits, there being, as in many of our gold and silver mines, remarkably few associated minerals. In other cases, however, it is doubtless due to the fact that very few persons connected with our mines have even an elementary knowledge of the rudiments of mineralogy, while in continental Europe almost every mining officer is familiar with all the ordinary minerals. Thanks to the training of our schools of science, an improvement in this respect is already noticeable, as is shown in the discoveries made in the mines of our Western States and Territories during the past few years.
While the service done for mineralogy by our geological surveys is gratefully acknowledged, we feel that we have a right to demand much more from them in the future. Mineralogy has been too largely looked upon as a guide to the discovery of useful ores and minerals, and not as a matter for scientific study; fortunately, during the past decade the discoveries in optical mineralogy and their importance in the determination of the constituent minerals of the crystalline rocks have led many geologists to again recognize the desirability of a knowledge of our science. Much will be accomplished if those in charge of geological surveys will direct competent persons to make observations, not only on the main mineral constituents of rocks but also in the manner of occurrence of individual minerals. The careful inspection of quarries and mines is greatly to be desired. These are rich sources for minerals, but, unless constant watchfulness is exercised, valuable material for science is in danger of being buried out of sight.
It is too true that many of the most interesting discoveries already recorded seem to have been due more to the result of fortunate accident than of systematic and intelligent exploration. If our trained mineralogists, instead of devoting most of their attention to the examination of specimens in cabinets collected by others, would give more time to personal observation in the field in the study of the order and manner of occurrence of mineral species in place, our knowledge would doubtless be greatly promoted. Again, if our wealthy amateurs could be induced to spend their money as freely in the exploration of promising American localities as in the importation of costly European specimens, we might hope for many important discoveries, and they could have the satisfaction not only of gaining novelties for their collections, but incidentally they would do much to foster science.
In order to keep pace with the progress of the science, we need many more workers who will devote themselves especially to mineralogical research, and we need more of the spirit of the early workers. It is my belief that the number of persons at present interested in the study here, either as amateurs or investigators, is relatively less than in 1825. The mineralogy of to-day is a very different subject from the mineralogy of the commencement of the period over which we have so hastily glanced. Then the study of minerals was confined almost exclusively to their external characters. Led by Werner and re-enforced by his most gifted pupil Mohs, the majority of mineralogists claimed mineralogy to be a purely natural history science. They gave their attention, as has been well said, entirely to "how the mineral looked" and not at all to "what it was." On the other hand, the development of analytical chemistry by the labors of Klaproth and Berzelius led many to take up mineralogy from a purely chemical stand-point. These two schools working independently brought great confusion into the science. The discoveries of Haüy in crystallography, and especially his labors in establishing a mathematical foundation for the geometrical form of crystals, and the recognition that the constancy of form depended on the constancy of the "integrant molecule," were steps which paved the way for modern mineralogy. In this a union of all the physical, geometrical, and chemical properties is required in order to determine the true character of a mineral.
Further, we are called upon to investigate the history of its origin, its relation to associated species, the changes which it undergoes, and the causes and results of these changes. Here we have to do largely with both geology and chemistry. From this it becomes evident that a much broader foundation is now required for the mineralogist than in the early days of the century. The bearing of physics, geology, and chemistry, in the study of the mineral kingdom, must be thoroughly recognized and appreciated by every investigator who desires to contribute to further progress. No mineralogist can expect to have a profound knowledge in all these directions, but he must be at least capable of intelligently applying to his subject the results obtained by experts in these sciences. Mineralogy is deeply indebted to special investigators in all these departments. Without their co-operation it would have been impossible to discover the relations of form and other physical characters with that fundamental arrangement of molecules whose nature it is now admitted controls all the properties of a substance.
The study of natural crystals has yielded rich material for the physicist. In the department of optics it has given results from which. many fundamental laws have been deduced; and natural crystals, too, have furnished, in many cases, the very apparatus which made investigations possible. Some chemists claim that mineralogy is not at all a science by itself, and constitutes only a small part of inorganic chemistry. It can be unquestionably conceded that a knowledge of chemistry is fundamental, and in consequence this claim has a certain plausibility. On the other hand, we contend that it was largely the labors of the mineralogists on the physical characters of minerals, and especially their demonstration of the relation of form to chemical composition, which finally awakened chemists to a more profound study of their own subject. The law of isomorphism was discovered by a chemist, whose training as an expert crystallographer in the examination of natural crystals made it possible for him to recognize the wonderful relation of form to composition. Dimorphism was first established from observations made on minerals, and it is in the study of the mineral kingdom that the laws of isomorphism and dimorphism find abundant demonstration. From the further investigation of the chemical nature of minerals we may hope for new light on the molecular constitution of substances which as yet the chemist has been unable to reproduce. We have already indicated the interdependence of geology and mineralogy. May we not claim the same interdependence of mineralogy, physics, and chemistry, letting each go on in its own sphere, contributing to the general progress, sure that every new fact observed and every new law discovered will be for the common advancement of all?
- An address delivered before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at Montreal, August 23, 1882.