Key meteoritic collections
Published:January 01, 2006
The meteorite collection of the Natural History Museum of Vienna has the longest history of all comparable collections in the world. In the second half of the 18th century, soon after the foundation of the Imperial Natural History Cabinet in 1748, the Viennese curators began to collect meteorites. Owing to the efforts and scientific interest in meteorites of Carl von Schreibers (1775–1852) and his successors the Vienna collection became the largest and most extensive in the course of the 19th century. Simultaneously, the collection and its curators became one of the centres of the newly established science of meteoritics. The outbreak of the First World War and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy brought all these research activities and the growth of the collections at the Viennese museum to an abrupt end. Modest activities between the world wars were interrupted by the onset of the Second World War, again leading to a complete halt. It was not before the late 1960s that the situation improved and a budget for purchases permitted the acquisition of select contemporary meteorite falls and finds. From then on, the meteorites in the collection had again been used intensively for research purposes. Up until the end of the year 2003, the meteorite collection had increased to a total of 2336 localities.
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The History of Meteoritics and Key Meteorite Collections: Fireballs, Falls and Finds
This Special Publication has 24 papers with an international authorship, and is prefaced by an introductory overview which presents highlights in the field. The first section covers the acceptance by science of the reality of the falls of rock and metal from the sky, an account that takes the reader from BCE (before common era) to the nineteenth century. The second section details some of the world's most important collections in museums - their origins and development. The Smithsonian chapter also covers the astonishingly numerous finds in the cold desert of Antarctica by American search parties. There are also contributions covering the finds by Japanese parties in the Yamato mountains and the equally remarkable discoveries in the hot deserts of Australia, North Africa, Oman and the USA. The other seven chapters take the reader through the revolution in scientific research on meteoritics in the later part of the twentieth century, including terrestrial impact cratering and extraordinary showers of glass from the sky; tektites, now known to be Earth-impact-sourced. Finally, the short epilogue looks to the future.
The History of Meteoritics and Key Meteorite Collections should appeal to historians of science, meteoriticists, geologists, astronomers, curators and the general reader with an interest in science.