Different functions of learning and knowledge—Geology takes form: Museums in the Habsburg Empire, 1815–1848
Published:November 27, 2018
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Marianne Klemun, 2018. "Different functions of learning and knowledge—Geology takes form: Museums in the Habsburg Empire, 1815–1848", Museums at the Forefront of the History and Philosophy of Geology: History Made, History in the Making, Gary D. Rosenberg, Renee M. Clary
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Few institutions are as multifaceted and successful as museums. The three main objectives of the museum—collecting, researching, and teaching—always existed next to each other, but they were not necessarily equally weighted. They changed in the course of the history of the museum depending on location and concept. How different was the character of these institutions at the beginning of their existence, when many of them were newly established in the Habsburg Empire. In contrast to modern museums, which focus apart from preservation on exhibitions for a broader public, the concept of the museum of the Vormärz period (1815–1848) was based on different forms of teaching. In 1811, Archduke Johann founded the Joanneum, a universal museum (a museum that included objects from nature and culture as well as crafts) in the province of Styria as a state museum (Landesmuseum) for the region, which became the model for other institutions in the Habsburg provinces. It has been largely overlooked that this outstanding early museum, first and foremost, provided regular instructional lectures in botany and mineralogy and, in so doing, made natural history and earth sciences known to interested people. At a time when mineralogy was not taught at secondary schools and was rarely part of the university curriculum, scholars such as Friedrich Mohs, Matthias Anker, and Karl Haidinger filled this gap and gave lectures in these subjects at museums. This contribution examines the shift from mineralogy as a science of specimens to geognosy (geology) as a science of stratigraphy during the Vormärz period, and I will argue that museums played a pivotal role in this transition process.
Few nineteenth-century institutions were, in general, as multifaceted and successful as museums. It seems to be a consensus among scholars of museum studies that museums emerged from a variety of cultural practices, institutional forms, and concepts. Museology defines research, mediation, and, first and foremost, preservation as the tasks of modern museums (Waidacher, 1999). Cultural studies on museums are in particular interested in the performance of a reality in the making (Davis, 1996; te Heesen, 2012). In general, the authority of museums of a society or a state does not rely on the wealth and the number of objects in their possession but on claims to political, moral, and epistemological features derived from the fostering of knowledge, cultivation, education, and professionalization. However, in the past 50 years, museums have changed considerably, not just by adopting new techniques of presentation and new forms of display, but also by reflecting changes in attitudes and new cultural approaches. The three main objectives of the museum—collecting, researching, and teaching—always existed next to each other but were not necessarily equally weighted. They changed in the course of the history of the museum depending on location and concept.
How different was the triple claim of museums at the beginning of their existence, when new institutions were established in the Habsburg Empire during the Vormärz period (1815–1848)! This paper addresses the functions of the museum in this period, when it was defined apart from preservation as a vital educational tool. It is fair to consider it as an ideal knowledge space (Livingstone, 2003) focused more than any other institution on different forms of learning and teaching with an emphasis on research. This marks a sharp contrast to the functions of modern museums, the main objective of which is—apart from education, preservation, and research—to attract a broad audience by spectacular events, displays, and exhibitions.
In general, museums are based on research, education, and entertainment; but are all these aspects equal in balance, and how do they fit together? When examining the role nineteenth-century museums played in regard to the general fascination with natural history at that time, it is necessary to include their involvement in teaching. I will focus on the newly established museums in the capitals of the provinces (state museums, Landesmuseen, and national museums, Nationalmuseum) and how they presented the earth sciences. I will then look at the scientific specialization in earth sciences as represented by Friedrich Mohs at the Court Museum (1826–1835) as well as, briefly, the Mining Museum (Montanistisches Museum), both situated in Vienna (1835–1848). The lectures held at these three museums illustrate the strong conceptual connection between teaching and research. Thanks to this connection, all museums were able to make a significant contribution to the earth sciences and the development of geognosy (geology). It would be possible, at this juncture, to introduce a definition of the various parallel terms and their meanings. But such a venture would be problematic since at that time, mineralogy did not yet exist as an independent discipline but was only beginning to develop. There are various branches of earth sciences for which mineralogy serves as an umbrella but for which (in the sense of natural history) it lost its supremacy to nature and was forced to share the field with the newly emerging discipline of geology.
“Geognosie” was a term that had been used in German territories since the time when Abraham Gottlob Werner used it for the description of mountain chains, while in other languages, “geology” or “géologique” gradually defined themselves as a field of study focusing on changes in the Earth’s crust over time. Even though in German-speaking countries, the differences between geognosy and geology diminished in the course of time, German geognosts from Werner’s school emphasized the difference as follows: “whereas geognosy limits itself to the spatial juxtaposition of mountain ranges, geology investigates the origin of and changes in these ranges in successive periods of time” (Glocker, 1839, p. 5). This orientation had one very useful dimension in that it was directed at the training of miners in the upper levels of the civil service. That is a specific feature of the German and Austrian history of earth sciences, which were socially, politically, and institutionally linked to mining in a way that was unknown in Great Britain. In this respect, museums not only supported the emergence of geology as a science but also fostered the public understanding of this new knowledge field. This paper will stress this connection and explain why regular lectures and a scientific curriculum of museums disappeared at the same time that universities included natural history and geology as subjects of their own rights in their curricula after 1848. Although universities held collections from the eighteenth century onward as mixed accumulations of different objects and physica naturalia, they did not develop geology as a scientific subject during the eighteenth century. They also played a minor role in creating public awareness regarding the importance of natural history or geology. Furthermore, only a small group of people, such as students and professors, had access to university collections.
The lectures held at public museums and court-collections, on the other hand, attracted a wide interest in natural history and accentuated the need for earth sciences for a broader public, mostly from the middle classes of the society.
Historians of science have stated a shift from mineralogy to geognosy or geology (as the most common terms for what would be called the earth sciences today) within the time from the end of the eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century (Rudwick, 1996). Hence, it is fruitful in this regard to focus on museums in the Habsburg Empire, which were established in this time span and can be seen as spaces where the shift from mineralogy as a science of specimens to geognosy as a science of fieldwork, from questions of mineral distribution to a science of rock formation, took place. I will argue that it was the museum space that enabled this process.
THE JOANNEUM IN GRAZ (STYRIA): THE MUSEUM AS A TEACHING INSTITUTION
With the foundation of the Joanneum (1811) in Graz in the province of Styria, Archduke Johann of Austria implemented a universal museum (a museum that includes objects from nature and culture as well as crafts) for the region (state museum or Landesmuseum). The specimens originated from his private collections, but the holder of the museum was the estates (Stände) of Styria. Culture, arts, crafts, and nature were included in this modern institution. It was supposed to initiate progress and innovation in the province and to support the process of industrialization. The archduke expressed this goal in a written declaration, which museologists today consider the most important conceptual foundation of museums of that time (Fliedl, 1992, p. 14; Jahresbericht, 1811). Instead of being oriented toward the emperor or the archduke, the museum’s cultural and natural collections were to represent and define the character of the country. As an instructional tool, the museum was at the core of a new cultural and educational concept that was supposed to close the gap between terminology and perception (Anschauung). According to enlightenment pedagogy, realia can create a link between seeing and thinking. The German word “Anschauung” expresses this relationship, but it has a double meaning: looking at something (Anschauen) results in an opinion (Anschauung). Due to its outstanding role and in contrast to the majority of other museums at the time, it became a model for similar institutions in the provinces of the empire. The museums in Cividale (1817, Friuli, today Italy), Prague (1818, Bohemia, today Czech Republic), Ljubljana (1821, today Slovenia), Innsbruck (1823, Tyrol), Linz (1833, Upper Austria), and Klagenfurt (1844, Carinthia) followed this example. All these museums were based on the involvement of the nobility and were supported by an elitist society.
Historiography on these institutions is legion but focuses mainly on their role as social representations or their nationbuilding impact (Raffler, 2007). Their significance regarding natural history has been largely underestimated as well as the fact that these early museums, first and foremost, provided regular instructional lectures, mainly in sciences. In so doing, they made many fields of knowledge—for instance, natural history and, in particular, mineralogy—accessible for civil servants, the middle classes, and young people. Let us focus on natural history and how geology emerged as a new field of knowledge. At a time when neither mineralogy as a traditional science nor geology as a new, emerging field were taught at secondary schools or found at universities, museums filled this gap. Museum lectures were well organized, and the students could take exams and get certificates. The shift from mineralogy to geognosy (geology) happened precisely at this time.
At the Joanneum, Friedrich Mohs was responsible for the curriculum from an early stage. Mohs (1773–1839), born in Gernrode in the Harz district, studied mathematics at the Prussian university of Halle for a short time and completed a training course at the Freiberg Mining Academy. On his mineralogical travels across Central Europe, he visited Vienna and came into contact with representatives of the upper classes who were interested in mineralogy and earth sciences (Wurzbach, 1868). The Viennese banker, Van der Nüll, commissioned him to rearrange his famous private mineralogical collection (Flügel et al., 2011). Mohs developed a new classification system especially for this purpose (Mohs, 1804). His travels through Prussia, Saxony, the Harz district, and Hessen in the north and through Carinthia in the south of Central Europe made him a much-traveled, experienced field naturalist (Mohs, 1807). Thus, he had experience classifying objects, an indispensable foundational knowledge for rearranging collections. He also possessed empirical knowledge regarding the geographical distributions of minerals among different territories as well as personal experiences in mining. It was presumably his versatility that convinced Archduke Johann to appoint Mohs as “professor of mineralogy” and as custodian at the Joanneum in Graz. During the first year in his new position, Mohs developed his first classification concept and started organizing the collection accordingly. He also published the first attempt of a basic textbook on mineralogy (Mohs, 1812). The task of identifying and classifying specimens, the key tools of mineralogy at this time, led Mohs to develop a consistent system as the foundation of the collection. The decision on how to arrange the objects was based on distinctions developed by his Freiberg teacher, Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749–1817) at Freiberg.
Mineralogy included four different collections in the Joan-neum. The so-called “Kennzeichensammlung” (collection according to identifying features) presented different characteristics of the “fossils” (“Foßilien” = minerals, everything dug from earth). The “Systematische Sammlung” (systematic collection) illustrated the classification according to families, genera, and species. Werner referred to the “Vaterländisch-geognostische und oryctognostische Sammlung” (literally: “patriotic-geognostic and oryctognostic collection”) (Jahresberichte, 1811–1826) as the collection of rocks from different types of mountains and distinguished it from the geographical collection (Guntau, 1996), whereas Mohs combined both and presented different geological formations manifested at different places. Werner referred to the “technische Sammlung” (technical collection) as “Ökonomische Sammlung” (economic collection) and demonstrated the purpose and use of the mineral kingdom. By naming and defining the geographical “Suitensammlung” (suite collection), which referred to different regions of the Habsburg Empire, the born Saxon proved at the Joanneum to be familiar with the patriotic Habsburg discourse in Austria. The “patriotic discourse” meant being cosmopolitan in knowledge while at the same time maintaining a focus on regional interests.
THE RECEPTION OF WERNER’S CONCEPT IN THE HABSBURG MONARCHY VIA THE JOANNEUM
Werner’s ideas on the structure and design of collections did not come directly from Freiberg but traveled via Graz to the Habsburg provinces. In a modified version, this concept became the role model of almost all earth science collections of state museums in the Crown Provinces during the following years and decades, including the museum in Klagenfurt established in 1844–1848 (Klemun, 1998). From 1826, the concept was also applied in the Mineralogical Court Cabinet in Vienna established in the mid-eighteenth century, the predecessor of the Natural History Museum. Even the choice of furniture of the Joanneum was emulated. The Viennese custodian, von Schreibers, reported to his superior that he had asked for a “detailed description and drawing of the boxes and other pieces of furniture”(HHStA, Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv Vienna, OKäA Oberstkämmereramt, B Akten, box 228, Z. 2196/1826) in the Joanneum. It was decided to equip all objects at the Joanneum with labels referring to three different classification systems by A.G. Werner, F. Mohs, and R.J. Haüy (a crystallographer), respectively. This practice was also adopted in the Mineralogical Court Cabinet in Vienna. In 1821, it was stressed that the labels of the objects in the Joanneum served as “instructing auxiliary means for self-research” (Jahresbericht, 1821, p. 6) for visitors and students. From a historio-graphical perspective, this remark is striking, because previously it had been the custodian who had explained and commented on the objects. For an intensive approach, the visitor had not been left alone in the collection. As long as the custodian came between the objects and the visitor, a focused and self-determined process of learning was not possible.
The systematic and the “patriotic” collections were the first ones established in the Joanneum. Already the first public report stated that teaching was the core competency and the main objective of the museum. “It was not the intention of His Imperial Highness to establish a museum as a monument of royal liberality for the mere glory of the city […] but for education and teaching that shall spread from the institution to all estates of society, to all fields of civil life: that is the main purpose of the institution” (Jahresbericht, 1811, p. 5). Mineralogy was taught for one hour on a daily basis. As early as 1813, an additional lesson in the afternoon was implemented to consolidate what had been learned by reference to the empirical objects (specimens). The lectures drew a large audience. By 1813, 30 people were already enrolled. This figure reached a first peak of 150 students in 1823 (Jahresbericht, 1823, p. 25). Exams at the Joanneum were soon accepted as a supplement of the Lyzeum, the remedial course for university students, especially in medical schools. Mohs had put his mark on the museum regarding mineralogy and the structure and design of the collections, but his career led him away from Graz. In 1818, while he was on a geognostic trip through Scotland together with Count Breuner, Mohs was appointed as professor of mineralogy at the Mining Academy of Freiberg by the Saxon King Friedrich August I. Thus, he became the successor of Abraham Gottlob Werner, his world famous teacher, who had arguably been the most renowned expert on earth sciences in the German-speaking area and beyond it in Europe (Mathé, 1989; Rösler, 1989). His stratigraphical classification included different groups of rocks: primitive rocks (Urgebirge), transitional rocks (Übergangsgebirge), secondary rocks (sandstones, limestones, etc.), and the youngest rocks (lose gravel, sand, and limestones). Furthermore, he developed a classification method concentrated on color, glitter, etc., and the shape of minerals (Werner, 1774). At the very beginning of his time as professor in Freiberg, Mohs published his ambitious book on mineralogical classification in Dresden (Mohs, 1820a). He started writing this book while still in Graz. It also appeared in English translation at the same time (Mohs, 1820b). Within his broad range of interests, the Freiberg Mining Academy ranked first throughout his whole life. The fact that Mohs’ name (Wagenbreth, 1999) still has its place in the pantheon of science is more likely due to a useful tool of field geology for a simple procedure—the so-called Mohs’ hardness scale, developed in Graz between 1812 and 1818—than to his classification method. Mohs was committed to a method of classification, originally developed for botany and zoology based on “externally visible features” (“characteristics”) (Mohs, 1812, Vorrede [Preface]), which he transferred to mineralogy. At the same time, he completely refrained from chemical methods of analysis that became more and more popular among mineralogists.
TEACHING AT THE JOANNEUM
In Graz, Mohs found a group of students who followed and continued his approach: Matthias Joseph Anker (1772–1843), who attended Mohs’ lectures at the museum and became his successor, and Karl Haidinger, the co-founder of the Mining Museum (1840–1848) and one of the driving forces behind the Geological Survey in Vienna after 1848.
Born in Styria, Matthias Joseph Anker was a trained surgeon and was commissioned by Archduke Johann to rearrange the collection of the Lyzeum, originally owned by the Jesuit Leopold Biwald (1731–1805), who taught physica generalis there. Familiar with the local conditions, Anker had already conducted excursions commissioned by the archduke before he started his position as custodian. His weekly personal letters sent to Johann between 1816 and 1843 show that he humbly followed his teacher’s footsteps. He attracted a group of interested students; among them, for instance, was the very creative paleontologist and evolutionist, Franz Unger, who became custodian at the Joanneum 1836 and professor at the university of Vienna in 1849 (Klemun, 2016). Administrative civil servants, members of the nobility and the middle classes, military officers, and representatives of trade and industry as well as students came together for the daily classes at the museum Joanneum that Anker described in a handwritten letter as follows:
My second voluntary class on mineralogy for the non-obligatory goes well so far. The number of those students is 40; among them physicists, also several students who belong to the field of mining and construction, some educators, legal practitioners, important personalities such as, among others, Hofrath Nittel, Professor Wrbna from the house of cadets, First Lieutenant Huebmann from the Genie Corps. As the start shows I hope to be rewarded for my small effort to give these voluntary lectures insofar that this useful science will spread. (handwritten letter, 26 October 1832, Anker to Archduke Johann—henceforth A.J.—Graz, Styrian Archive, Stmk LA, Archiv (A) Meran (M), box 19, no. 47, fol. 194–199)
The love for mineralogy was infectious. Even historians developed an interest in stones and rocks—for example, Georg Göth, who initially worked as Archduke Johann’s secretary and about whom Anker wrote to the archduke: “A few days ago I received a letter from Göth in Vordernberg in which he asked my advice on what book on mineralogy he should buy for his self-teaching on this field of science? I had to answer: that he could not master the science without attending the lectures and seeing the characteristics of the minerals with his own eyes” (letter, 2 November 1831, Anker to A.J., Graz, Stmk LA, A. M., box 18, no. 133, 201–204). Anker kept insisting on the significance of studying the object itself in the museum.
Afterwards, special attention was given in the Joanneum to the technical collection, which came closest to fulfilling the archduke’s wish of turning the museum into a place of progress. It was the first public collection in Europe that exclusively addressed mineralogy as an applied science. It presented rocks in six sections: mining, construction, trade, dye-work industry, agricultural use, and chemical analysis (Jahresbericht, 1823, p. 4).
Thanks to contacts and exchanges with foreign scholars and donations from the local population, the number of objects continuously increased. Archduke Johann sent questionnaires and appeals to the relevant authorities resulting in further official donations to support the objectives of the museum in many places of the province of Styria. All these donated objects from mining facilities and civil servants were mentioned in the published reports of the museum and thus publicly appreciated.
Many institutions and individuals participated, thus proving a significant patriotic effort. As early as 1824, it was explicitly stressed that the “mineral” collection was a “highly important depository of natural history and regional knowledge” (Jahresbericht, 1823, p. 25). Thus, the museum firmly pursued the strategy to “draw attention to our fatherland” (Jahresbericht, 1824, p. 3), which should be achieved by the “overview of the types of mountains in Styria,” established and expanded from 1821 onward (Jahresbericht, 1821, p. 1). The students took part in excursions to enlarge this collection. Initially, this special collection was structured according to political and administrative entities (the districts of the province). However, in 1826, this focus was abandoned in favor of Graz as the point of orientation of the political entity. The collection was arranged with Graz as the center of the four points of the compass featuring the “world regions of Styria” (Jahresbericht, 1826, p. 4). This arrangement was also justified by pointing out that visitors from abroad would not know the political structure of districts. Thus, optimizing the perception of the visitors was given priority over the reference to administration.
The work on the collection of rocks according to different mountain types, which gave an “overview of mountain types in Styria,” was oriented to the “utility postulate.” It contributed to the shift from mineralogy as a science of objects to geognosy with a focus on the stratigraphy of the country. In Graz, Matthias Anker played an important role in this respect with more than 50 brief publications on Styria (Flügel, 2004). However, Anker remained a follower of Mohs also in epistemic terms, which is shown by a letter from 1831, in which he expressed his doubts toward the increasing significance of geognosy: “Mohs sent me a letter the day before yesterday and confided to me that he was planning a work on geognosy, in which he might put a stop to the premature conclusions of the so-called traveling geognosts (: from which he does not exclude the English). I cannot wait to see his work” (letter, 2 August 1831, Anker to A.J., Graz, Stmk, LA, A. M., box 18, booklet 3, no. 108, fol. 101–104).
Traveling was associated with geognosy, but there was a narrow connection to geology too, a science which brought a theoretical consciousness into the earth sciences. Mohs’ concept of describing rocks was based on the works of Werner, who had coined as well the term geognosy.
GEOGNOSY AS A BRIDGE BETWEEN MINERALOGY AND GEOLOGY: FROM A SCIENCE OF SPECIMENS TO A SCIENCE OF STRATIGRAPHY
Werner’s school had a sustained impact. He had exhibited a rather skeptical attitude toward general theories of the growing field of geology, the history of the Earth, but proceeded on the assumption of the third dimension of the Earth, today called stratigraphy (Oldroyd, 1996, p. 101). Many scholars of his time adopted Werner’s instructional system of describing rocks, because it was based on the visible surface of objects similar to and in line with Linnaeus’ botanic description methods, which were highly recognized and even admired (Guntau, 1984). Describing rocks meant to identify them by sight (color, glitter, and shape) according to a learned experience rather than examining them chemically.
In order to disassociate his concept from what was commonly known as geology (Dean, 1979), Werner coined the term geognosy (Klemun, 2015) for exploring the third dimension of the Earth. He considered geology a new, uncertain, and speculative science in contrast to geognosy, which was based on precise terms and well-established traditional practices. His careful choice of wording also reflects his language skills as he pointed out: “Let us not be careless with our choice of words so that we can do justice to the things” (Rahden, 1992).
Werner’s concept of geognosy, which he developed in addition to his description method within the culture of mining, was neither obliged to reason nor to geognosy as a total theory of the Earth (Hofbauer, 2003). Unlike some English scholars, who had separated from traditional mineralogy as a science of merely collecting specimens, Werner was no geo-philus. His stratigraphy was based exclusively on rock identification and determination and not on fossils. And in contrast to a large number of geologists of this new generation, who were quite fond of traveling (Klemun, 2010), Werner rather stayed at home. While Anker stuck to Mohs’ approach in general, he moved from merely identifying and classifying minerals to questions of stratigraphy. The museum enabled this transformation. The new tasks Anker was addressing were not least influenced by the archduke’s visit to London in 1815–1816. Johann was not only received at court in London but also visited the places of industrialization in Glasgow, Liverpool, and Manchester. He met with the geologist William Buckland at Oxford University as well as with the inventor James Watt and the astronomer William Herschel. He also saw a map compiled by William Smith—the first of its kind—based on the correlation of fossils specific to different strata of the Earth and noted in his diary that this was “a beautiful large-scale geognostic map of England” (Flügel, 2004, p. 63).
Whether Archduke Johann was in fact influenced by this encounter with Smith’s map when he commissioned Anker to compile a geological map of Styria is a matter that must remain open. However, it is quite likely. In addition, Leopold Buch (1774–1853), one of the most renowned German geologists and the first German member of the Geological Society of London, visited Anker in Graz in 1819 at the Joanneum. Their joint excursions corroborated Anker’s initial findings. For instance, he divided the Paleozoic in Graz into limestone of the transition series (Übergangsgebirge) and the older stratified series (Flözgebirge). Buch had already identified a sequence of gneiss, shale, and limestone. Here is not the place to outline the increase in stratigraphic knowledge in the context of Anker’s transition into a geognost and at least into a geologist, but suffice it to say that he soon extended his classification system from three to five groups. Anker explicitly and in great detail discussed the difficulty of where the primitive series (Urgebirge) ended and the transition series (Übergangsgebirge) started (Flügel, 2004).
In his annual reports until 1830, Anker used the term mineralogy to subsume his activities. He mentioned geognosy or geology as equal terms for the first time in 1831 (Jahresbericht, 1831). It was in the same year that Anker rearranged his collection according to stratigraphic aspects. The layout of the collection and the scientific principle of its structure were mutually dependent. If the objects displayed in a museum can be considered an indicator of the curator’s ideas, then Mohs’ and Anker’s activities were characteristic insofar as they represented different approaches. Nevertheless, Anker was still critical toward scientific change. He wrote to the archduke:
My love and enthusiasm for geology is still a bit impaired; as I realize that all geognosts’ identification of rocks is based on shaky ground –fossil deposits in specific formations and divisions based on those are also questioned. In so doing, we lose any fixed formation principle: we cannot determine where one formation begins and another ends. The identification and classification of compound rocks also presents many problems, first and foremost with those rocks whose compounds merge and amalgamate. I compare our current geognosts with bees, which have to make more observations and gather more facts to justify this science. (letter, 21 September 1832, Anker to A. J., Graz, Stmk, LA, A. M., box 19, booklet 1, no. 40, fol. 162–169)
Anker’s statement reveals his uncertainty, since he no longer found Werner’s method of determining mountain ranges adequate, for it depended exclusively on lithographic criteria that did not permit any differentiated identification of strata, although this had already been achieved by other geologists.
THE MUSEUM AS “CONTACT ZONE” (PRATT, 1991) FOR INTERNATIONAL GEOLOGISTS AND THE CIRCULATION OF GEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS
What caused Anker’s change of mind? It is fair to assume that there were several factors, beginning with the huge quantity of findings gained by field geology. In 1828, Friedrich Keferstein (1784–1866) visited Graz as the first German geognost from abroad who undertook excursions together with Anker (Keferstein, 1828). In 1829, the geologists, Roderick Impey Murchison (1792–1871) and Adam Sedgwick (1785–1873), president of the Geological Society of London, came to Graz, as well as the famous paleontologist, Caspar Maria Count Sternberg (1761–1838) from Prague. They were attracted by the reputation of the museum as a key institution for traveling geologists from abroad. The museum’s specimens and objects on display represented important aspects of different geological sites in Styria. Anker reported to Archduke Johann about visitors of the museum on a regular basis and about the impact by the visitors. Thus, the museum was not only an educational institution but also a space of communication to share new knowledge on geology. Also, the Graz museum held the most recent publications on geological topics as shown in a letter from Anker to the archduke from 1833, in which Anker expected that even his teacher Mohs would address geognosy in his next publication: “Mohs was probably delighted about the opportunity to talk to Your Imperial Highness; when will his geognosy arrive, while at present almost every month a new book on geognosy appears and every one of them is full of inconsistencies typical for this science. Among the new ones I like the books by: De la Beche, Lyell and Meyer” (letter, 13 January 1833, Anker to A.J., Graz, Stmk LA, A.M., box 19, booklet 2, 48 letters, 55c, fol. 9–12).
These three personalities represented very different scientific approaches. The Principles of Geology (1830–1833) by Charles Lyell (1797–1875) was a theoretical foundation of geology as a science by postulating the significance of currently observable occurrences for geological phenomena. Henry Thomas de la Bèche was the president of the first Geological Survey in London, and Hermann Christian Erich Meyer (1801–1869) established vertebrate paleontology in the German-speaking area (Wild 1999). Their scientific positions led Anker to refuse geology as a speculative science. Although Anker was in general skeptical of a type of geology that gave answers concerning the process of change in the Earth’s crust and the reasons for this, he examined intensively new concepts of geology that looked at geological processes. It is striking that he slowly adopted the most modern concepts of geology in its concern to history. The foreign visitors of the Joanneum brought these insights from abroad and evoked debates on these new aspects of geology.
The visit of Ami Boué (1794–1881) to the Joanneum underpinned the important role of the museum in enabling contacts between geologists from different countries (Klemun, 2011). The German scholar had studied in Edinburgh and co-founded the first geological society in Paris in 1830. He offered geologists from Austrian provinces the opportunity to publish in his journal and the museum as a space of communication where scientists could meet personally despite the restrictions of Metternich’s surveillance. Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar Metternich was Chancellor of the Habsburg Empire from 1821 until the liberal revolution of 1848 and was famous for his censorship and the repressive treatment of attempts at democratization. Anker reported to Archduke Johann: “Yesterday I received a visit from the most laudable and well-known geognost Boué. The collection of the institution, first and foremost the fossils, attracted his attention. He also mentioned that he would like to receive the Styrian journal in exchange for the French geological journal” (letter, 17 July 1832, Anker to A.J., Graz, Stmk, LA, A. M, box 19, booklet 1, 55 letters, no. 30, fol. 120–123).
The Styrian journal, Der Aufmerksame and the Steier-märkische Zeitschrift, included mixed topics about culture, crafts, and arts as well as nature, whereas the French Bulletin de la Societé Geologique de France mentioned by Boué was one of the first specialized journals in earth sciences.
SCIENTIFIC RETROGRESSION AND ORGANIZATIONAL INNOVATIONS IN VIENNA
In Graz, Anker was gradually leaning toward geology as a result of his stratigraphic studies, although without being able to discuss the issue of age determination. In Vienna, by contrast, Mohs was again given a privileged position within the academic world, and mineralogy was prioritized over geology as a science of classification. A handwritten letter from Mohs to Franz Laurenz X. Riepl (1790–1857), professor of commodity economics at the Vienna Polytechnic (predecessor of the Technical University of Vienna), which has been largely ignored by historiography (handwritten letter, German National Museum Nürnberg, Germany, Autographen, 7 October 1825, Mohs to Riepl, Freiberg), shows that Mohs himself pursued his move from Freiberg to Vienna. The court finally granted his wish: “I feel called upon to take the Royal Saxon Bergrath (mining inspector) and Professor in Freiberg, Friedrich Mohs, in my service and to allow him an annual salary of 2000 guilders convention money as full professor of mineralogy” the court decree from July 1826 reads, with which Emperor Franz I (II) brought Friedrich Mohs from Freiberg to Vienna (Vienna, HKA, Münz- und Bergwesen, Nr. 12544/1826, Laxenburg 10.7.1826; and AVA, Studienhofkommission, Medizin, Vienna, box. 243, Z. 3459/297, 12.7.1826. Emp. Franz I to Count Saurau). It is no surprise that the emperor met the wish of the efficient mineralogist, who was already well known, even beyond German-speaking areas (Oldroyd, 1996). But that does not explain why the emperor in fact established a chair of mineralogy at the University of Vienna in the first place. And what was Mohs’ reason to leave the renowned Freiberg Mining Academy, where he as Abraham Gottlob Werner’s successor held the most prestigious chair of this subject in the German-speaking area (and probably in the whole of Europe) and come to Vienna?
Under the pledge of secrecy, Mohs revealed his conditions for a potential move from Freiberg to Vienna to his confidant, Riepl. It is fair to assume that Riepl, who had contacts, pulled the strings to appoint Mohs. Vienna was generally intriguing for Mohs, because here he saw the possibility to establish his specific classification method of minerals at a high level and to spread it from the capital into all parts of the monarchy (Klemun, 2004b), so that the entire teaching staff would have to adopt it unquestioned, as shown in a letter to Riepl: “If the intention is to educate science teachers who will afterwards work with and spread the method to Banská Štiavnica, Pest, Lviv etc., this is a completely different matter and it seems to me that under this condition I could not be of more use in any other place of the world than in Vienna” (handwritten letter, German National Museum Nürnberg, Autogr. 7 October, Mohs to Riepl, Freiberg). Mohs expected that the Viennese academic world would accept his specific method of describing minerals in principle, as his objective was its establishment and distribution within the monarchy. In addition, Mohs demanded access to the Mineralogical Court Cabinet (predecessor of the Natural History Museum in Vienna), the most important collection of the Habsburg Empire. This highly prestigious place and its richness were supposed to be available for knowledge transfer. However, Mohs neither wanted to be custodian nor subordinate to the director of the collections (the “Vereinigtes k.k. Naturalien-Cabinet,” “United Imperial and Royal Natural History Collection”). He was not interested in a position within the hierarchy of the court service. Instead, he was keen to use the rich collections and the results of 70 years of work. This intention was a novelty for the imperial collections. For 20 years, collections had been Mohs’ scientific starting point for developing a classification method. Now, the emperor’s museum in Vienna was supposed to serve the purpose of a space of science policy in connection with the university (Klemun, 2004b).
In what follows I will discuss the paradox that even though the principal (emperor) and agent (Mohs) had conflicting interests, they could be brought down to a common denominator, because both sides expected advantages from this arrangement. Politics and science got fruitful “resources for one another” (Ash, 2002, p. 32). As already mentioned, Mohs pursued a classification method based on “externally visible features” (“characteristics”) (Mohs, 1820a) and transferred it to mineralogy. His Grundriss der Mineralogie (Foundations of Mineralogy) (Mohs, 1822 and 1824) had been met with disapproval in Freiberg and Berlin (Mohs, 1829). But Mohs had reason to hope that his ideas would be welcome at the Viennese court, especially with Franz I (II), an expert of Linnaean botany. In general, the elites considered the Linnaean reforms the beginning of a substantial rise of natural history.
Naturalists of Romanticism, on the other hand, had already pursued the divide within the subjects of natural history (von Engelhardt, 1997)—even more so between geology and the aspiring biology—or defended their similarities.
In his memorandum to the Keeper of the Privy Purse, Mohs argued in favor of the well-known bond between the three kingdoms of nature:
The scientific reason of the humbly proposed institution is the present state of mineralogy that it is seen as part of natural history, and thus this institution is no other than the zoological cabinet which already exists. The same principles that are applied in zoology and botany are to be applied in mineralogy and just as these two parts of natural history are taught, experience will certainly help make the lessons effective and fruitful; mineralogy has to be taught in the same manner and will also be effective and fruitful, whereof experience has shown not only to the signatory himself (especially in Graz) but also to some of his followers at home (Prof Anker, Riepl and Zippe) and abroad (Jameson, Haidinger in Edinburgh, Naumann in Jena and Leipzig). It has been a tiresome work to put mineralogy in the same scientific state zoology and botany have already reached, which has occupied the signatory for more than twenty years […] (Vienna, HHStA, ÖKäA, B Akten, box 228, 2005 ex 1826)
The emperor and his advisers expected that Mohs’ expertise and competence would bring the Mineralogical Court Cabinet up to date. Already in the mid-eighteenth century, a fortune had been spent to purchase the Florentine cabinet of Jean de Bail-lou with roughly 30,000 objects for the court collection newly designed by Emperor Franz Stephan, who had established the international reputation of the wealth of the imperial collections. Ignaz Born (1742–1791), who was appointed as custodian in 1776, again improved the collection during the second half of the eighteenth century. The display of the objects and the furniture in the rooms of the Augustinian Corridor within the Castle was completely rearranged, and the collection was opened to the general public once a week. Also, Born convinced the Court Chamber of Coinage and Mining to urge mining towns and areas to add specimens to the museum’s collection (Klemun, 2004a). Minerals were arranged according to the systems developed by the Swedish scholars, Cronstedt and Wallerius. However, since that time, nothing much had been changed, apart from cataloguing the objects of the collection by Abbé Andreas Stütz in 1806. As a zoologist, Director Carl Franz Anton von Schreibers (1775–1852) was no expert on earth sciences but fought for the approval of reforms, as he pointed out in a letter from 1826:
Six years ago, when I had the opportunity to empty and rearrange the great hall of the Imperial and Royal Mineralogical Cabinet in order to undertake the planned refurnishing and fitting of the imperial mineralogical collection I took great care that the new boxes which were to be designed and built, 26 in number, would not only serve their mere purpose but also meet the demands of the current fashion. Since in this respect the furnishings of the museum in Gratz [sic], which have been fitted recently according to the design and under the direction of Prof Mohs, has been praised by my esteemed and expert principal Count von Wrbna His Excellency of blessed memory and was even met with applause by His Majesty himself, I decided to take those as an example and for that purpose asked the principals of this museum for detailed descriptions and drawings of the boxes and other furniture. After I had received these descriptions, I ordered to furnish our hall accordingly, only I was forced to make some minor modifications so that these new furnishings would not clash—at least at first glance—with the older rooms, which have been in existence for 40 years, since I did not dare to order the amendment of those as well due to the substantial increase in costs, especially at that time. (Vienna, HHStA, OKäA, B Akten, box 228)
It was presumably due to a shortage of money in the times of the Napoleonic Wars that the emperor did not want to change the budget for the Mineralogical Cabinet—that was rather low compared to the other departments—but then he accepted the financial demands of the director, since with Mohs as a new employee, this investment seemed profitable, which the director of the collections did not fail to mention:
Professor Mohs considers the current amendments of those rooms with old furnishings absolutely indispensable in order to meet expectations and to enable his design and his planned curriculum and I cannot forbear to agree with him, all the more as for a long time I have been of the opinion that those amendments will be useful and highly desirable and under the current circumstances I find them even more desirable and necessary. According to the preliminary estimates of the involved workers and professionals, those amendments and the uniform production of the entire premise at the Imperial Mineralogical Cabinet according to the demands and wishes of Professor Mohs will probably amount to roughly 3000 fl Mz for which I ask your approval […] even more urgently since the construction works have to be completed within a few months in order to not delay the completion of the furnishings and the display which have constantly been worked at in the meantime. (Vienna, HHStA, OKäA, B Akten, box 228, 29 December 1826)
A new classification system necessitated rearranging the exhibition structure and design and changing the furnishings, because showcases and system were interwoven. The display of objects went hand in hand with textual representations (Mac-Gregor, 1994). The formulaic expression of a “purposeful furnishing” represented a quality mark for a well-organized and well-structured collection, which was mirrored by the furnishings. Collections had an epistemic function—they provided order within the disorder of natural historical knowledge. A mineral in a showcase did not gain meaning as an isolated object but in reference to others next to it. It would be naїve to assume that order and structure could be caught at a glimpse—just as Goethe aptly stated. Only the “inner eye” (Hamm, 2000, p. 106) was able to conceive the carefully designed structure. It was thought that what became settled as knowledge functioned as an “inner eye” after a complex intertwining of observing and learning structures. An exhibition catalogue guiding the perception was to grant true insight. Mohs followed this practice. His comprehensive classification system was supposed to have the same function as a catalogue. This system, geared toward totality, had to stand the test as guideline for education based on the versatile collection, if this totality was considered in the concept of the collection:
As the systematic structure of the Imperial and Royal mineralogical collection is a matter on which Not only the lectures depend, with which the signatory has been commissioned, but that also influences the spreading of scientific mineralogy within the provinces of the Imperial and Royal Austrian monarchy, which are immensely rich in minerals, and has an impact on the public opinion, the signatory dares to present his humble view on the arrangement of the Imperial and Royal mineralogical collection to be examined. The arrangement requires simplicity and consistence [author’s emphasis]. This is the basis of the impression of sublimity and greatness, which the design of the exhibition is supposed to create at first glance, without any distracting elements. (Vienna, HHStA, OKäA, B Akten, box 228, 2005)
Thus, distraction should be avoided. But what did this mean? Goethe even went as far as criticizing the collections at the Jena court in principle, because they were equipped with showcases and thus only attracted the “gawking crowd who are led to believe” (Hamm, 2000, p. 106) and who disrupted the process of true studying. Mohs too championed
a close look, [provided the fact] that the sections are clearly and firmly distinguished according to class, order and genus, because this is the true intention of the exhibition layout, be it for the purpose of a mere systematic overview of the products of the mineral kingdom or for the purpose of teaching. Very often teaching mineralogy remains fruitless and this has to have a general reason. Many years of experience in teaching mineralogy under different circumstances have shown the signatory that it is difficult to clearly convey the concept of classes, orders and genera to beginners of this science if one is unable to present these classes, orders etc. in front of the students. Since in that case the beginners have to learn every mineral as an individual object, which is difficult and time consuming and only possible when a collection is at hand […]. If the teacher is in the position to give his audience a clear idea of the classes […] etc based on a purposefully equipped and well arranged collection, he will be able to help them by using the means that science currently offers with minimal costs in time and money and it can be expected that his students will gain the knowledge that is required to be useful to the state and to science. (Vienna, HHStA, OKäA, B Akten, box 228, 2005)
In this way, the display of the collection voiced the curators’ values and disclosed their mental and political concepts.
MOHS’ ACADEMIC TEACHING AT DIFFERENT MUSEUMS IN VIENNA
The connection between collections (= museums), research, and teaching was evident in Mohs’ eyes.
For him, fundamental research was the elementary value of mineralogy as a science. Although he did not explicitly refer to the educational concept of Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), the Prussian founder of the Humboldt University of Berlin, Mohs’ ideal link between knowledge based on research and the inclusion of the material world was reminiscent of Humboldt’s influential reform idea of “education through research” (Bruch, 1999, p. 29).
Mineralogy should not, according to Mohs, exclusively be geared toward mining. Instead, it was to be taught by using the same methods as in botany and zoology, but independent from them. Education and training of higher-grade mining personnel in mining academies that were founded especially for that purpose (Freiberg in Saxony in 1775; Banská Štiavnica in Upper Hungary in 1770; St. Petersburg in 1773; Almaden in 1777; Paris in 1783; and Mexico City in 1792) had taken on a life of their own long before Mohs started his career. He was not interested in a reform of these institutions; his focus was on the universities. In the wake of the higher education reform under Emperor Maria Theresia in the eighteenth century, universities in the Habsburg provinces taught mineralogy only under the umbrella of natural history, while the traditional historia naturalis had already separated into individual subjects at many universities elsewhere. Despite a general willingness for reform, Habsburg curricula did not initially undergo differentiation (Egglmaier, 1988). The fruitless debates on these reform plans evolved around the key question: was the university to provide the theoretical foundations of sciences in general, or should students only gain practical knowledge to prepare them for their professional lives? In contrast to the Humboldt University reform in Berlin, educational political decisions in the Habsburg provinces during the entire eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries were oriented toward “utility” and practical applicability instead of pure science.
This pragmatism hampered, in my view, serious discussions on the significance of mineralogy within the educational system and the establishment of geology as an independent university subject, which only happened in the course of the Leo Count Thun-Hohensteins reforms in 1848 (Lentze, 1962). The reputation of mineralogy improved not before the Vormärz period, and this was thanks to semi-public collections and museums. Since the 1780s, Viennese elites showed great interest in mineralogy (Huber, 1981), starting with the establishment of private collections and intense exchange practice among one another. Rochus Schüch (1788–1844), “secular priest [not belonging to a religious order] and custodian at the local Imperial and Royal Natural History Cabinet,” responded to this trend and asked the emperor in 1816 “for the permission to give popular lectures on mineralogy for a fee to a small group of people from the educated classes three times a week during four months. The main purpose of these lectures is the technical and economic use of minerals to improve industriousness, which is taken into consideration by the national legislation in an excellent manner” (Vienna, AVA, Allgemeines Studienhofkom., 4, Philosophie, box 245, 178 ex 1816).
Despite the anti-commercial position of the emperor based on distrust of and opposition to liberalization and democratization currents, isolated measures were taken to support some branches of industry. Polytechnic institutes were founded in Prague and Vienna (predecessors of the technical universities). Schüch’s focus on utility went down well, supported by the beginning economic depression (Sandgruber, 1980). Schüch also assured the emperor that he would not “treat mineralogy in a speculative manner—not mere historical tellings together with displaying minerals—and thus reduce it to a mere memory work.” The “speculative manner” indirectly hinted at geology, which was associated with revolutionary science or untenable explanations by English and French scientists. “Mere memory work” referred to traditional classification methods for the sake of classification only.
And “historical tellings” pointed at the structure of knowledge within the traditional corpus of natural history—in the sense of history as a listing of events and phenomena. These three aspects Schüch mentioned as arguments against contemporary discourses were innovative only in appearance and matched in fact the conservative-restorative paradigm of the new “patriotic” Habsburg state ideology. “Speculation, mere memory work and historical tellings” were denounced by Mohs as well, which his textbooks proved well enough.
In Freiberg, Mohs had been entrusted with the task to continue the life work of his world-famous predecessor Werner as an epigone. His superiors clearly failed to realize that Mohs had in fact distanced himself from Werner’s concept already before his appointment. Mohs insisted that he had his own “method of natural history.” Apparently, Freiberg was no ideal place to establish this method.
In order to improve his professional profile, Mohs had to find a new position that was not overshadowed by a leading figure such as Werner. Although Mohs’ classification concept differed from Werner’s theory in many singular aspects, its fundamental structure was still based on Werner’s principles. The core of Mohs’ concept was his method of description. Similar to Werner, it was based on characteristics or “external appearances” such as form, hardness, weight, and denseness. Mohs not only appreciated crystallography but also refrained from using chemical methods of identification and the popular blowpipe analysis, because he opposed mixing methods from different disciplines in principle. Mohs made every effort to create a fundamental concept of natural history—which he called the “systematic paragon of similar knowledge” (Mohs, 1836, Vorrede [Preface])—as the basic idea of his abstractions. All principles seemed to be deducted from natural history. His natural history method was based on an extended scientific system and on a perfect edifice of ideas—this cemented his mineralogy as science and was, in his eyes, progress (Mohs, 1829, 1839).
Mohs wanted to set up his own “school” that would be followed by an elite group of scientists who would spread his methodological views in all teaching institutions of the Habsburg Empire (Klemun, 2004b). Thus, it was paramount to him to have optimal teaching materials available to teach and train high achievers. Mohs believed that the Imperial collection would provide exactly this kind of material, not only for reasons of austerity but also because it was the best institution in Vienna. In addition, Mohs was well aware that referring to the principle of “utility” would be the best way to convince the emperor (Vienna, HHStA, OKäA, B Akten, box 192, 1831, Sternberg to the Hofkämmerer, 11.1.1831). The collection of the Viennese court was still a first-class prestigious object. From 1829, Count Kaspar Sternberg (1761–1838), the founder of the Prague National Museum, tried to bring the Meeting of German Naturalists and Physicians (Versammlung deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte), established by Lorenz Oken in 1822, to Vienna. The successful conferences of this organization in Leipzig and Berlin aimed at promoting and supporting not only natural sciences, but also politics, in particular the idea of German unification. Prior to the preparation of the conference, Sternberg expressed his concerns regarding the bad condition of the court collections. He suggested dusting the enormously rich Imperial collections to avoid scorn and ridicule by the European scholars.
Sternberg also demanded compilation of up-to-date catalogues, which was firmly rejected by von Schreibers, the director of the collections. This example demonstrates the importance attributed to the Imperial collections. According to Sternberg’s estimates, more than 20,000 people, mostly travelers from the educated classes, visited the different court collections every year—the Imperial Natural History Collection (including the mineralogical cabinet). The Imperial collections had in fact lost their monopoly position by then. More state museums—referred to as “patriotic”—had been founded in the capitals of the provinces—in Budapest, Prague, and Graz. They outranked the museum in Vienna, not in terms of the number of objects, but because of the exemplary design and structure of the exhibitions. But let us go back to the starting point of the events, to the time of Mohs’ appointment in 1826. After Mohs had been ordered to “systematically structure and rearrange the mineralogical collections of the state and the teaching institutions of Vienna,” this task was completed within three months. The collections were displayed according to his classification system. Although the decree initially did not mention lessons held in the court collections, the Keeper of the Privy Purse was informed of these plans immediately (Vienna, HKA, Münz-und Bergwesen, Nr. 12544/1826, Laxenburg July 1826 and Vienna, AVA, Studienhofkommission, Medizin, Wien, Kart. 243, Z. 3459/297, July 1826, Emp. Franz I. to Graf Saurau). An agreement was reached to allow lectures when the collection was closed; that is, four times a week during lunchtime. Similar to Schüchs’ efforts, the government of Lower Austria demanded “to show consideration for those individuals who are higher civil servants and who have professional reason to use the collections, for instance higher civil servants of the Department of Coinage and Mining” (Vienna, AVA Studienhofkomm. box 243, 277 ex Okt. 1826). Thus, the benefit of the state had to be ensured. Mohs’ lectures attracted interest mostly among civil servants, but also young physicians, who were generally interested in natural science and made use of this offer, given the lack of educational opportunities otherwise. The Slovenian pharmacist, Heinrich Freyer, still in education, who would later become the custodian of the state museum in Ljubljana, was one of the interested visitors of the lectures in the mineralogical cabinet (Archive of the Rep. Slovenia, Ljubljana, Freyer, Privat.a. XI, Fasz. 12).
Emperor Franz took further steps to use Mohs and his expertise for the state. He decided that Mohs should embark on exploration trips through the provinces of the “Austrian monarchy” and review proposals submitted to the highest authority for coinage and mining. In this sense, he acted de facto as a governmental consultant for mineralogy and worked for three institutions: he was a professor of the University of Vienna; he gave lectures at the Imperial and Royal Mineralogical Cabinet in the Hofburg, predecessor of the Museum for Natural History today; and served as an expert and reviewer for matters of coinage and mining. Mohs, who presented himself as a theorist in his textbooks, returned in his later years to questions of mining for which he had already shown interest at the beginning of his career. Meanwhile appointed as Bergrat (mining counsellor), his Anleitung zum Schürfen (Instructions on Prospecting) was distributed to all mining authorities of the provinces of the Monarchy (Vienna, HKA, Münz- und Bergwesen, Zl. 5069 ex 1838). According to the available documents of the Department of Coinage and Mining—even though not all of its holdings have survived (Kostelka and Weiss, 1986)—Mohs was only occasionally asked for help.
When he found incorrect results in studies he reviewed, he always suggested that those were caused by the general difficulty of observing geognostic phenomena. If anything, he criticized the incorrect use of technical terms and a lack of theoretical foundations, which, on the other hand, he did not even expect from mining personnel. Even as a reviewer, Mohs used every opportunity to improve the reputation of mineralogy as an academic discipline toward the general public and to spread his scientific views as a special form of knowledge (Vienna, HKA, Münz- und Bergwesen, 1827, Z. 6767). Apart from the Mohs scale, nineteenth-century historiography evaluated Mohs’ scientific achievements rather negatively. According to this view, he did not initiate any progress in Freiberg, and his natural history method had no beneficial effects on scientific research.
His mineralogical nomenclature, building upon his theoretical (crystallographic) principles, which he used to describe several new findings, was never scientifically established. His terminology based on principles was considered too complicated. To give a single example: in 1820, 1822, and 1839, Mohs collected a mineral that is known today as loellingite in Hüttenberg and called it “prismatic arsenic pyrites” (“prismatischer Arsenik-Kies”). Chapman implemented the term “Mohsin” in 1843 in recognition of Mohs’s achievements, but only a few years later the name “loellingite” became common. Scientists after Mohs did not understand his efforts to reevaluate mineralogy as a science and to improve its reputation toward the general public, because they did not share his objective of a holistic concept of mineralogy. Eduard Suess, the famous Austrian geologist, was quite right when he disparaged Mohs’ educational methods as teaching “the shape of letters instead of the ability to read” (Häusler, 1999, p. 27). And yet, Suess’ thinking itself was trapped in the dichotomy between theory and practice and subject to the utility postulate.
The fact that Mohs’ attempt to connect different institutions with each other was taken up again in 1835 illustrates its significance. In 1842, Stephan Endlicher, professor of botany, attributed great scientific importance to museums in his plans for an academy in Vienna. This academy—Endlicher referred to it as an “institution of the sciences”—was supposed to be a coordination center between the library, the court cabinets (museums), and the university (Kadletz-Schöffel, 1992, v. 1, p. 282).
These plans were reminiscent of Mohs’ ideas. In institutional terms, Mohs was successful: the improved public reputation of mineralogy in Vienna is linked to his name, and his objective to train and educate outstanding representatives of his subject has been achieved (Mohs, 1839). Wilhelm Haidinger, his most successful student, travel companion, and translator (Mohs, 1825), was one of them. With Haidinger, the heyday of the earth sciences began. Also, the foundation of a museum of coinage and mining (“Montanistisches Museum in Vienna”), which offered classes from 1835 and became the nucleus for recruiting scientists of the second generation, was thanks to Mohs’ initiative.
FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE COURT CHAMBER OF COINAGE AND MINING TO THE MINING MUSEUM (1835–1848) IN VIENNA
The Court College of Coinage and Mining (Hofkollegium des Münz- und Bergwesens), founded in 1745, was the highest office of the Court Chamber. Its task was to administer and support all state-owned mines of the monarchy. The wise presidents of this office recognized the important role of collections also for this institution and founded a library and a “mineralogical” collection within its framework. Mohs soon learned that not only the Imperial collections but also the collections of the mining authorities he worked for as a mining counselor were suitable for his teaching program.
In 1827, he moved his regular lectures there. On official request, all subordinate authorities could be mobilized to support the extension of the collections, just like in the case of the Joanneum in Graz.
The Imperial and Royal Mint, the part of the Court Chamber permitted to strike coins, got a new building in 1835, and the entire second floor was used for the “mineralogical-geognostic Central Collection” as a museum and teaching space. For the first time, a special collection of the earth sciences was granted independence. Wilhelm Haidinger, a student of Mohs, who had previously taught Mohs’ ideas in Edinburgh, used the opportunity to extend this institution in Vienna and turn it into a “Mining Museum” in 1842 (Cernajsek, 1999). More classes and courses in chemistry and mining were offered. Combining teaching and research was in line with the needs of the state to extend the knowledge on mineral deposits by conducting the first systematic survey. The specialization of the collections as a “mining museum” was paralleled with a focus on academically trained civil servants in mining. By referring to the utility principle in favor of the state, Haidinger was able to lay the groundwork for the rise of the earth sciences that thrived between 1835–1848, building upon Mohs’ organizational achievements. During these years, knowledge of the earth sciences focused on mining emancipated from Werner’s and Mohs’ geognosy. At an organizational level, the foundation of the Geologische Reichsanstalt (Geological Survey) that directly emerged from geognosy was proof of its significance. The collections of the mint were taken over by the Survey in 1848, but the lectures were discontinued. In the meantime, the Thun University reforms had made the philosophical faculties independent, and the first chairs of paleontology and soon after of geology were established (Schübl, 2010). The change of name from mining to geology accounted for the expansion of the earth sciences with the rise of geology in the Imperial collections, the Geological Survey, and the universities.
Specialized courses and lectures in earth sciences were exclusively held at the universities, which in turn expanded their collections.
Despite the Joanneum’s self-professed objective from 1811 to establish teaching courses and to define the purpose of the collections as useful for the country (Anker, 1822), it played not only an important role as a place of teaching but also as a communication space. It was a dynamic space of knowledge for traveling geologists to acquire new insights and exchange different positions. In parallel with the task of focusing on the geognosy of the country, the exhibition concept prioritized rocks and minerals from Styria and those that were “useful.” Both publications, such as those by Mathias Anker, and the design and structure of the exhibition he was responsible for, changed from a focus on the object to an interest in stratigraphy. Mohs, as professor of mineralogy at the University of Vienna, on the other hand, was keen to entrench his method of description in all collections. His efforts to link the Imperial collections, the university, and the mining authority did not innovate geology but created an institutional and organizational foundation, from which an independent mining museum could emerge. In 1849, it became the Geological Survey, which would play a pivotal role for geology in the Habsburg Empire. Thus, it was not before the mid-nineteenth century that the sustainable impact of Werner on Mohs and Anker became a thing of the past. Without exception, it was the museum that allowed different ways of following utilitarian thinking at different levels and allowed space for negotiation processes that enabled the shift from the science of specimens to a stratigraphy.
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Figures & Tables
Museums at the Forefront of the History and Philosophy of Geology: History Made, History in the Making
Natural history museums have evolved over the past 500 years to become vanguards of science literacy and thus institutions of democracy. Curiosity about nature and distant cultures has proven to be a powerful lure, and museums have progressively improved public engagement through increasingly immersive exhibits, participation in field expeditions, and research using museum holdings, all facilitated by new technology. Natural history museums have dispersed across the globe and demonstrated that public fascination with ancient life, vanished environments, exotic animals in remote habitats, cultural diversity, and our place in the cosmos is universal. This volume samples the story of museum development and illustrates that the historical successes of natural history museums have positioned them to be preeminent facilitators of science literacy well into the future.
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