The meteorite collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France
Catherine L. V. Caillet Komorowski, 2006. "The meteorite collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France", 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 French national meteorite collection of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) represents one of the richest collections in the world in terms of its historical heritage and scientific value, particularly for samples of observed falls (512). In fact, early meteoritic research was dominated by French 18th and 19th century scientists such as René Just Haüy, Auguste Daubrée, Stanislas Meunier and Alfred Lacroix. They all contributed, along with Jean Orcel and Paul Pellas in the last 80 years, to form this exceptional collection. The fall at L'Aigle in 1803 led to the recognition of the nature of meteorites and the promotion of the science of meteoritics by Jean-Baptiste Biot. The first catalogue of the meteorite collection elaborated by Cordier in 1837 contained 43 specimens. The collection now contains about 3385 specimens representing 1343 distinct meteorites, to which can be added at least 3000 tektites and numerous specimens of impactites, casts, artificial samples and thin sections. France has the greatest number of meteorite falls by surface unit and by number of inhabitants, with 70 distinct meteorite falls recovered. The collection offers a diverse range of meteorites such as those containing rare presolar grains, the famous carbonaceous chondrite Orgueil (fall, 14 May 1864), the first martian meteorite, Chassigny (fall, 3 October 1815) and Ensisheim (fall, 7 November 1492), which is one of the two oldest observed and documented meteorites and the first meteorite to be registered in the catalogue. The MNHN collection represents a resource that is particularly appreciated by the scientific community.
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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.