History of the meteorite collection at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
Ansgar Greshake, 2006. "History of the meteorite collection at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin", The History of Meteoritics and Key Meteorite Collections: Fireballs, Falls and Finds, G.J.H. McCall, A.J. Bowden, R.J. Howarth
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The meteorite collection at the Museum für Naturkunde (Museum of Natural History), Berlin, had its beginning in 1781 at the Royal Academy of Mining. Enlarged by donations from, among others, the Russian tsar Alexander I and Alexander von Humboldt, the collection in 1810 was transferred to the Mineralogical Museum of the newly founded University of Berlin. During the directorship of C.S. Weiss and later G. Rose, the private collections of M. Klaproth and E.F.F. Chaldni were acquired, and in 1864 the meteorite collection comprised fragments from 181 of the about 230 known meteorites. Based on studies of these meteorites, Rose proposed a classification scheme in 1863 that is still valid in principle today. He also introduced the terms chondrule, mesosiderite, pallasite, howardite, eucrite, chondrite and chassignite. In 1888 the collection was moved to the new Museum of Natural History and by 1906 the number of meteorites had increased to 500. In the following 60 years the meteorite collection did not receive much attention until G. Hoppe and his successor, H.-J. Bautsch again actively acquired new samples and studied meteorites scientifically. In 1993 Bautsch was followed by D. Stöffler and the study of meteorites became one of the main research interests of the Institute of Mineralogy. Stöffler also appointed a meteorite curator for the first time in the collection's history. As a result of two major acquisitions of Saharan meteorites, and continuous classification work, the number of separate meteorites increased to 2110 at the present time, making the collection both an exceptional historical heritage and a modern research tool.
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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.