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History of mineralogy

Early writing on mineralogy, especially on gemstones, comes from ancient Babylonia, the ancient Greco-Roman world, ancient and medieval China, and Sanskrit texts from ancient India and the ancient Islamic World.[1] Books on the subject included the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder, which not only described many different minerals but also explained many of their properties, and Kitab al Jawahir (Book of Precious Stones) by Muslim scientist Al Biruni. The German Renaissance specialist Georgius Agricola wrote works such as De re metallica (On Metals, 1556) and De Natura Fossilium (On the Nature of Rocks, 1546) which begin the scientific approach to the subject. Systematic scientific studies of minerals and rocks developed in post-Renaissance Europe.[1] The modern study of mineralogy was founded on the principles of crystallography (the origins of geometric crystallography, itself, can be traced back to the mineralogy practiced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) and to the microscopic study of rock sections with the invention of the microscope in the 17th century. Early writing on mineralogy, especially on gemstones, comes from ancient Babylonia, the ancient Greco-Roman world, ancient and medieval China, and Sanskrit texts from ancient India.[1] Books on the subject included the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder which not only described many different minerals but also explained many of their properties. The German Renaissance specialist Georgius Agricola wrote works such as De re metallica (On Metals, 1556) and De Natura Fossilium (On the Nature of Rocks, 1546) which begin the scientific approach to the subject. Systematic scientific studies of minerals and rocks developed in post-Renaissance Europe.[2] The modern study of mineralogy was founded on the principles of crystallography and microscopic study of rock sections with the invention of the microscope in the 17th century.[2]The ancient Greek writers Aristotle (384–322 BC) and Theophrastus (370-285 BC) were the first in the Western tradition to write of minerals and their properties, as well as metaphysical explanations for them. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote his Meteorologica, and in it theorized that all t e known substances were composed of water, air, earth, and fire, with the properties of dryness, dampness, heat, and cold.[3] The Greek philosopher and botanist Theophrastus wrote his De Mineralibus, which accepted Aristotle's view, and divided minerals into two categories: those affected by heat and those affected by dampness.[3] The metaphysical emanation and exhalation (anathumiaseis) theory of the Greek philosopher Aristotle included early speculation on earth sciences including mineralogy. According to his theory, while metals were supposed to be congealed by means of moist exhalation, dry gaseous exhalation (pneumatodestera) was the efficient material cause of minerals found in the Earth's soil.[4] He postulated these ideas by using the examples of moisture on the surface of the earth (a moist vapor 'potentially like water'), while the other was from the earth itself, pertaining to the attributes of hot, dry, smoky, and highly combustible ('potentially like fire').[4] Aristotle's metaphysical theory from times of antiquity had wide-ranging influence on similar theory found in later medieval Europe, as the historian Berthelot notes: The theory of exhalations was the point of departure for later ideas on the generation of metals in the earth, which we meet with Proclus, and which reigned throughout the middle ages.[1] Fibrous asbestos on muscovite Ancient Greek terminology of minerals has also stuck through the ages with widespread usage in modern times. For example, the Greek word asbestos (meaning 'inextinguishable', or 'unquenchable'), for the unusual mineral known today containing fibrous structure.[5] The ancient historians Strabo (63 BC-19 AD) and Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) both wrote of asbestos, its qualities, and its origins, with the Hellenistic belief that it was of a type of vegetable.[5] Pliny the Elder listed it as a mineral common in India, while the historian Yu Huan (239-265 AD) of China listed this 'fireproof cloth' as a product of ancient Rome or Arabia (Chinese: Daqin).[5] Although documentation of these minerals in ancient times does not fit the manner of modern scientific classification, there was nonetheless extensive written work on early mineralogy.

 
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