Examination of the materials at and near the surface of the earth proves that, if we disregard plants and animals, they consist of various kinds of masses, such as rocks, soils, and ores of different types, disposed according to definite patterns expressive of their modes of formation and subsequent history. Closer study reveals that these rocks and ores consist in turn of one or more substances of different properties and aspects. These smaller units are called minerals. Each mineral is more or less homogeneous in chemical composition and is commonly recognized wherever it occurs by certain distinguishing characteristics or features.

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