Earth Science

History of Mineralogy

The fundamental principles of mineralogy

Our world is full of different kinds of minerals. We can find these minerals in many parts of the globe, wherein they are often associated with rocks. These rocks are a product of natural processes that occur over time, which ended up as minerals.

Interestingly, rocks are not entirely minerals. It is best to say that some rocks contain minerals, and an excellent example of this is the food that we eat. Some of us eat our breakfast cereals without knowing that, at the same time, we are also eating minerals. If we look into the nutrition facts of our cereal box, we can see that there are certain minerals present in each serving, such as iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and many more. These minerals that we can find in cereals are the same ones we can find in rocks.

Besides the creation of cereals, our modern world adapted various ways to utilize minerals for the benefit of humans. Furthermore, scientists became more interested in the study of minerals, which led to the development of another branch of Earth science called mineralogy.

Because of this field of study, our world today takes advantage of the several uses of minerals for the benefit of humans. In this article, we are going to look into the science of mineralogy – its properties, utilization, and origin.

What is Mineralogy?

As mentioned earlier, mineralogy is the branch of Earth science devoted to the study of minerals. Its study focuses on the distribution of minerals, as well as the identification and properties. It also covers the scientific research of the chemistry, crystal structure, and physical properties of minerals.

Furthermore, mineralogy also engages in the study of mineral origin and formation for us to better understand its properties. Other scopes of study of mineralogy include the minerals’ classification, geographical distribution, and also its utilization or application.

In our modern world, minerals are considered a necessity for our society because of its various uses. This demand for the use of minerals led to the development of mineralogy to maximize its usage further. Different types of minerals are present in many of the world’s metal products and machinery today. It is also used for construction purposes, wherein buildings and houses use a variety of minerals, such as limestone, marble, gravel, cement, etc., to strengthen a structure and make it more appealing.

With all these said, we can say that mineralogy is an essential branch of science in our fast-paced world, which is also one reason why scientists continue to develop and improve the use of minerals until today.

What is the origin of mineralogy?

portrait of Georgius Agricola

The study of minerals originated from different cultures all around the globe. We can trace back its origins to ancient civilizations from thousands of years ago. Some of the earliest accounts of mineralogy were from ancient Babylonia, Greek, Roman, China, and India, wherein several writings about minerals were made.

One of the first people who contributed to the development of mineralogy was the great Greek philosopher ‘Pliny the Elder’ who wrote the book Naturalis Historia. His book made an impact on the study of minerals since it gave definition to several minerals, and gave detailed explanations about their properties.

The scientific approach of studying minerals started in the 16th century, wherein the German Renaissance specialist Georgius Agricola wrote the ‘De re Metallica,’ which means – On Metals. His work led to a more systematic scientific study of minerals and rocks, which eventually became the modern study of mineralogy. Furthermore, the modern practice of the study of minerals was heavily influenced by another branch of Earth science called crystallography.

A breakthrough in the advancement of mineralogy was achieved by the Danish scientist Nicholas Steno who was the first person to observe the law of constancy of interfacial angles. However, his work was generally inclined with crystallography instead of mineralogy. That is why his observations were generalized by the French mineralogist Jean-Baptiste Louis Rome de I’Islee.

After the 18th century, several other scientists contributed to the development of mineralogy, which led to a deeper understanding of its properties. The knowledge gained by scientists was then used to create innovations in various industries in our society. Interestingly, our world today uses several types of minerals and utilize them in many different ways.

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