A history of the meteorite collection at the Natural History Museum, London
Sara Russell, Monica M. Grady, 2006. "A history of the meteorite collection at the Natural History Museum, London", 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 first meteorites were acquired by the Natural History Museum (NHM) in 1803. At this time when meteorites had just begun to be generally accepted as extraterrestrial by the scientific community. Over the last 200 years the collection has grown to be one of the largest and most diverse in the world. The collection is made up of approximately 1900 meteorites, including examples of all of the main types, from about 90 different countries. It is the largest collection of meteorite falls (meteorites observed to have fallen through the atmosphere, in contrast to those found later) in the world. The current strength of the collection and associated research can be attributed to the passion for meteorites shown by members of the Department of Mineralogy over the years, especially keepers Nevil Story-Maskelyne, Lazarus Fletcher and George Prior.
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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.