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the branch of geology concerned with the study of minerals
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the science of the natural chemical compounds called minerals and of the composition, properties, special features, and regularities of the physical structure of minerals; also, the science of mineral formation and alteration in nature. The principal task of mineralogy is to establish the scientific foundations for the exploration and evaluation of deposits of useful minerals and the enrichment of these minerals for practical use in the national economy.

Mineralogy is one of the oldest geological sciences. In the course of its development, mineralogy has engendered new sciences that have since become independent disciplines. For example, in the 19th century crystallography and petrography separated from mineralogy, and in the early 20th century the theory of useful minerals, geochemistry, and, subsequently, crystal chemistry became distinct. Mineralogy extensively relies on the laws and methods of modern physics and chemistry and in many respects is on the border between the geological and physicochemical sciences. Historically, the emergence of different courses of study in mineralogy has been determined by the range of questions studied by mineralogy, the complexity and diversity of minerals and methods of studying them, the ever-expanding sphere of research, and the economic necessity for geological exploration.

Principal trends. DESCRIPTIVE MINERALOGY. Descriptive mineralogy deals with the collection, study, and refinement of factual information; mineral classification; the generalization of data on the morphology, physical properties, and chemical composition of minerals; and the generalization of data on isomorphism. Descriptive mineralogy also seeks to establish causal relationships between the composition, structure, and physical properties of ideal crystals and those of actual minerals, which have defects in the crystal lattices. The physics of minerals, which studies minerals by the methods of solid-state physics, is a special subdivision of modern descriptive mineralogy.

GENETIC MINERALOGY. Genetic mineralogy identifies the conditions, regularities, and processes that lead to the formation of mineral species and mineral associations—deposits of useful minerals. It determines the quantitative values of physicochemical parameters (temperature, pressure, and chemical mechanism of the mineral-forming medium) that characterize the formation of the mineral and elucidate the actual method (mechanism) of formation. Genetic mineralogy includes the theory of the typomorphism of minerals; ontogenetic and crystallomorphological analysis, which provides information on the history of the formation of individual minerals and of aggregates; and the study of solid and gaseous-liquid inclusions as a source of information on the mineral-forming medium. Genetic mineralogy also studies polymorphism and polytypism and the methods and principles of paragenetic analysis to determine the energetic and physico-chemical characteristics of minerals. In addition, it establishes geologic thermometers and geobarometers—minerals from which the thermodynamic parameters of the formation of deposits can be determined.

EXPERIMENTAL MINERALOGY. Experimental mineralogy is concerned with the simulation of natural processes and the study of physicochemical systems in order to elucidate the conditions of the formation of minerals in nature. Closely related to this branch is mineral synthesis (for example, of diamonds, piezoquartz crystals, optical fluorite, rubies, garnets), a new field of mineralogy used extensively in engineering.

APPLIED AND TECHNICAL-ECONOMIC MINERALOGY. Applied and technical-economic mineralogy deals with problems related to the industrial use of new mineral species and to research devoted to the more comprehensive use of mineral raw materials and to methods of extracting higher quantities of useful components from the materials. This branch includes the mineralogical cartography of deposits of industrial grades of ore, the study of the dependence of the industrial properties of minerals on the composition and structure of the minerals, the study of solubility and magnetic and other properties, and the investigation of the behavior of minerals during ore enrichment and the chemical processing of concentrates (for example, by roasting and the action of acids). It also considers the application of mineralogical criteria to the prospecting and evaluation of deposits of useful minerals (for example, typomorphism of minerals, laws of paragenesis) and works out special mineralogical methods of exploration (thermoluminescence, photoluminescence, radiation methods).

REGIONAL MINERALOGY. Regional mineralogy generalizes the mineralogical study of individual regions and ore provinces in order to establish the laws of the distribution of minerals and their associations related to the history of the region’s geological development. Regional mineralogy is part of the general complex of metallogenetic studies.

MINERALOGY OF CELESTIAL BODIES. The development of the mineralogy of celestial bodies became possible only after the receipt of samples of lunar rock. The study of the rocks enabled scientists to generalize about the special features of mineral formation on the surface of the moon and in the upper layers of the moon’s crust. The study of the mineral composition of meteorites is also important.

None of the aforementioned branches can develop fruitfully without refinement of existing methods of mineralogical research and the corresponding instruments and the development of new instruments. This includes quick methods of field and laboratory identification and the development of accurate physical and analytic methods of mineral investigation.

History. Mineralogy emerged in antiquity in connection with the practical needs of man, who used stone extensively for various purposes. The first information about minerals appeared in the works of ancient Greek and Roman scholars. Aristotle and Theophrastus described the properties of a number of minerals and linked the origin of these minerals to the smoke and vapors that escape from the earth’s interior. Information on minerals is also contained in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder (mid-first century A.D.). The search for and extraction of mineral raw material for smelting metals, as well as for medicine and alchemy, led to increased knowledge about minerals and ores in the early Middle Ages. Outstanding among the historical remains of the Middle Asian peoples are the works of al-Biruni and Avicenna, which described the properties of many minerals. The development of mining in the sixth to 13th centuries, above all in Central Europe and Russia (extraction of iron, tin, muscovite, rock salt, amber, silver, and other minerals), led to a more careful study of ores.

A work especially devoted to minerals appeared in Europe in the 13th century, namely, Albertus Magnus’ De mineralibus, a Latin treatise written after 1262. At this time, no distinction was drawn among minerals, rocks, and ores, and their classification was primitive. Closely linked to alchemy and metallurgy, mineralogy began forming into an independent science during the Renaissance. The first work of generalization concerning mineralogy is linked with G. Agricola. In his work De re metallica (1550), Agricola clearly distinguished minerals from rocks, gave a detailed description of the physical properties of minerals, and devised the first classification. The term “mineralogy” was first introduced in 1636 by the Italian scientist Bernard Cesi (Caesius) of Modena.

As early as the 17th century the first geometric laws for crystals were formulated and the study of optical properties was begun in Denmark (E. Bartholin and N. Steno), the Netherlands (C. Huygens), and England (R. Boyle, R. Hooke). The work of the Frenchman J. Romé de Lisle (1783) on interracial angles in crystals greatly influenced the development of mineralogy and crystallography and served as the basis for the creation by R. J. Hauy of the theory of the structures of crystalline minerals. Haiiy advanced this theory in 1801 in Treatise on Mineralogy. The descriptive-morphological (physiogeographic) line of research was most brilliantly represented by the school of A. G. Werner in Germany.

The development of mineralogy in Russia is closely linked with the name of M. V. Lomonosov, who was the first to express the idea that chemical composition must be the principal deter-mining characteristic of a mineral. In the works Treatise on the Birth of Metals From Earth Tremors (1757) and On the Earth’s Layers (1763), among others, Lomonosov stated that minerals in ore veins form natural associations and the existence of one at any one location serves as an indication of the presence of the other. V. M. Severgin based mineralogy on chemistry. He defined mineralogy as the science that studies the composition and structure of minerals, the relations between minerals in natural deposits, and the practical uses of minerals. Severgin was the first to formulate (1798) the concept of paragenesis (the “proximity of minerals”).

In Western Europe the chemical approach in mineralogy became predominant in the Scandinavian countries and in Germany in the second half of the 18th century; the leading proponents of this approach were the Swedish scientists A. F. Cronstedt (1758) and J. Berzelius (1814) and the German mineralogists J. A. F. Breithaupt (1820, 1847) and M. Klaproth (1795, 1815). The detailed study in the 19th century of the composition and physical properties of minerals led to the formulation of the concepts of isomorphism and polymorphism (the German chemist-mineralogists E. Mitscherlich, R. Hermann, and, later, G. Tschermak, among others). In Russia, a group of outstanding mineralogists—D. I. Sokolov, N. I. Koksharov, and P. V. Eremeev—were instrumental in the development of mineralogy. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries major contributions were made in descriptive and regional mineralogy by such foreign scientists as P. von Groth, F. Klockmann, F. Rinne, and R. Brauns (Germany), F. Becke (Austria), W. Brögger (Norway), F. A. A. Lacroix (France), and J. D. Dana (United States). By the end of the 19th century mineralogy had become established as a descriptive science and two basic lines of research were developing: the crystallomorphological and the chemical.

With the ever-increasing demand for different types of raw material and with intensified prospecting, the methods of descriptive mineralogy could no longer satisfy practical needs in the late 19th century. Continuous refinement of methods of identifying and testing minerals made it possible to study the properties of the minerals in greater detail. Primary attention was focused on the chemistry and properties of the minerals and the laws of isomorphism and paragenesis.

World science is considerably indebted to the Russian school of V. V. Dokuchaev, E. S. Fedorov, V. I. Vernadskii, and A. E. Fersman for the development of new methodological approaches and generalizing theories in mineralogy. D. I. Mendeleev’s periodic law and J. W. Gibbs’ phase rule greatly influenced the development of modern mineralogy.

Vernadskii saw mineralogy as the chemistry of the earth’s crust and considered minerals to be the products of complex natural reactions. A mineral is constantly interacting with its environment and itself alters with changes in the physicochemical conditions. In defining paragenesis as an expression of the law of characteristic association of minerals in natural occurrences, Vernadskii actually made a new generalization of the most important scientific propositions of modern mineralogy. At the same time, the crystallochemical line of investigation emerged. It was closely linked with the name of Fedorov, who mathematically deduced all the possible spatial groups of crystal symmetry (230) long before the development of X-ray structural analysis. However, penetration into the atomic structure of the crystal became possible only after the discovery of the diffraction of X rays (M. von Laue, 1912). The X-ray structural studies of W. H. Bragg and W. L. Bragg (Great Britain), L. Pauling (United States), G. Vul’f (Russia), and others made it possible to consider the composition and structure of minerals as a whole, work out a new theory of isomorphism (V. M. Goldschmidt, A. E. Fersman), create a crystallochemical classification of minerals, and study Sthe physical properties of minerals from a new point of view.

Contemporary mineralogy is marked by a synthesis between the historically established lines of study: descriptive and genetic, chemical and crystallographic. The study of minerals is directed at identifying the causal relations among the environment, conditions of formation, composition, crystal structure, and the physical properties of real minerals with all their defects and inhomogeneities. The physicochemical basis for explaining the natural processes of the formation of minerals has been established by investigations of physicochemical systems and conditions of equilibrium and the study of the crystallization of silicate and sulfide minerals at high temperatures (the Russian scientist K. D. Khrushchev, the Swiss scientist P. Niggli, the American N. L. Bowen), research into the laws of crystallization of salts from solutions (the Soviet scientist N. S. Kurnakov and the Dutch scientist J. H. Van’t Hoff), and the study of colloidal systems (the Dutch scientist R. W. van Bemmelen).

In Russia a new stage in the development of mineralogy emerged after the October Revolution of 1917. Close ties with mining technology and the application of planning principles in scientific research stimulated the rapid development of mineralogy. New scientific mineralogical centers were organized and vast regional mineralogical projects were established throughout the USSR. The principal leaders of this work were A. D. Arkhangel’skii, A. E. Fersman, N. M. Fedorovskii, S. S. Smirnov, and N. A. Smol’ianinov. Many deposits and ore regions (the Kola Peninsula, Yakutia, northeastern USSR, the Caucasus, Middle Asia) were discovered and developed. The scientific material obtained during this work served as the basis for new theoretical generalizations in mineralogy and geochemistry and for the practical application of new methods of studying and dressing ore raw material. New mineral species were exploited, for example, nepheline, apatite, loparite, pyrochlore, cyanite, phenacite, and bertrandite, and new areas of mineral use were found.

The study of the thermochemistry and thermodynamics of natural processes made it possible to develop mineralogical criteria to characterize processes deep within the earth and to determine the depth and temperature conditions of the processes of metamorphism of minerals, ores, and rocks (A. E. Fersman, D. S. Korzhinskii). Ways of using physicochemical analysis and experiments combined with geological observations were introduced to elucidate the laws of formation of similar associations of several minerals in geological bodies of different origins (A. E. Fersman, S. S. Smirnov, V. I. Smirnov, A. G. Betekhtin, V. A. Nikolaev). Ways of identifying the conditions of formation of minerals deep within the earth with changing temperatures, pressures, and concentrations of chemical components were also introduced.

The development of the theory of paragenesis led various Soviet mineralogists, including A. E. Fersman, S. S. Smirnov, K. A. Vlasov, F. V. Chukhrov, and I. I. Ginzburg, to important theoretical generalizations. Among them are the theory of the genesis of pegmatites and formations close to them, the laws of the formation of oxidation zones of ore deposits, and the study of the conditions of formation of deposits of iron, nickel, and other minerals in the modern weathering crust. The work of such Soviet scientists as la. V. Samoilov, V. I. Vernadskii, and F. V. Chukhrov on the role of living organisms and colloidal solutions in the formation of minerals (manganese and iron ores, native sulfur) is well known. The development of the concept of the typomorphism of minerals led to the idea that the external appearance (habit) of crystals and their aggregates and the chemical composition and structural characteristics of minerals are dependent on the conditions of formation in a particular geological environment. The history of the origin, growth, and alteration of minerals and mineral deposits is reflected in individual minerals and aggregates of minerals, in morphology, in typical manifestations of typomorphism, and in the genetic indicators (G. G. Lemmlein, D. P. Grigor’ev, I. I. Shafranovskii).

The generalizations obtained during the study of gaseous-liquid and multiphase inclusions in minerals made it possible to solve various problems of the nature, composition, and thermodynamic parameters of the environments in which many minerals in various deposits formed (N. P. Ermakov, lu. A. Dolgov). By elucidating the relationships among the environment, conditions of formation, composition, structure, and properties of minerals, Soviet mineralogists obtained significant results in the study of the real chemical composition and structure of crystalline minerals and in establishing correlations between the com-position of minerals and the properties of the atoms and ions making up the minerals, on the one hand, and the crystallochemical structure and basic physical properties of minerals, on the other (N. V. Belov, A. E. Fersman, V. S. Sobolev, A. S. Povarennykh, E. K. Lazarenko). Important results were also obtained by Soviet scientists in the study of minerals of the silicate and sulfide classes and their analogs (N. V. Belov, V. S. Sobolev), borates, native elements, quartz, and other groups, as well as minerals of rare and rare-earth elements (G. P. Barsanov, E. I. Semenov, V. I. Gerasimovskii. A. I. Ginzburg). The requirements of the practical work that makes use of the special properties of crystals (piezoelectric, ferroelectric, semiconductor, birefringent, “laser,” general optical) led to the precise and comprehensive study of the physical properties of minerals and the influence of the structural characteristics of real minerals (polytypism, dislocation, defects in crystals, electron vacancy centers) on changes in the physical properties (A. S. Marfunin, B. B. Zviagin). In cooperation with crystallographers and physicists, mineralogists formed the independent scientific discipline of crystal synthesis.

Principal organizations and periodical literature. In the USSR mineralogical research is carried on by institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, by the administrations and departments of the ministries of geology of the USSR and the Union republics, and by educational and scientific research institutes. A great deal of work in reporting and disseminating the advances in mineralogy is done by the mineralogical societies in the USSR and abroad—France, the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Scandinavian countries, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Great Britain, the United States, India, and Brazil. These societies are joined into the International Mineralogical Association, which holds congresses every four years at which the most important problems of mineralogy are discussed. Mineralogical museums also play a major role in the development of mineralogy and in disseminating mineralogical knowledge. The largest mineralogical museum is the A. E. Fersman Mineralogical Museum of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. There are vast mineralogical collections at the Leningrad Mining Institute, Moscow State University, the Moscow Institute of Geological Research, and the institutes in Sverdlovsk, Irkutsk, Kiev, L’vov, Alma-Ata, and other cities of the USSR; other large collections are in Freiberg (German Democratic Republic), Karlsruhe (Federal Republic of Germany), Paris, London, Prague, Washington D.C., and New York.

The principal periodical publications in the USSR in mineralogy are Zapiski Vsesoiuznogo Mineralogicheskogo obshchestva (since 1866), Mineralogicheskii sbornik of the University of L’vov (1947), and Trudy Mineralogicheskogo muzeia of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1949). The principal foreign journals include American Mineralogist (Washington, D.C. 1916); Bulletin de la Société française de minéralogie (et de la cristallographie) (Paris, 1878); Bulletin Suisse de minéralogie et de pétrographie (Bern-Zürich, 1921); Mineralogical Magazine (London, 1876); Zentralblatt für Mineralogie (Stuttgart, 1950); Zeitschrift für Kristallographie (Leipzig, 1877); Acta Crystallographica (Cambridge-Copenhagen, 1948); Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie: Abhandlungen (Stuttgart, 1807); Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie: Monatshefte (Stuttgart, 1900); Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology (Heidelberg-Berlin, 1947); Schweizerische Mineralogische undpetrographische Mitteilungen (Zurich, 1921); and Tschermaks mineralogische und petrographische Mitteilungen (Vienna-New York, 1872).


Lomonosov, M. V. O sloiakh zemnykh i drugie raboty po geologii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Vernadskii, V. I. Izbr. soch., vols. 2–3. Opyt opisaternoi mineralogii. Moscow, 1955–59.
Grigor’ev, D. P., and I. I. Shafranovskii. Vydaiushchiesia russkie mineralogi. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Grigor’ev, D. P. Ontogeniia mineralov. L’vov, 1961.
Povarennykh, A. S. Kristallokhimicheskaia klassifikatsiia mineral’nykh vidov. Kiev, 1966.
Barsanov, G. P. “Mineralogiia.” In Razvitie nauk o Zemle v SSSR. Moscow, 1967.
Betekhtin, A. G. Kurs mineralogii, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1961.
Lazarenko, E. K. Kurs mineralogii. Moscow, 1971.
Kostov, I. Mineralogiia. Moscow, 1971. (Translated from English.)
Sidorenko, A. V., and E. K. Lazarenko. “Sostoianie i zadachi sovremennoi mineralogii.” Zap. Vsesoiuznogo Mineralogicheskogo obshchestva, 1972, part 101, issue 2.
Belov, N. V. Ocherki strukturnoi mineralogii, vols. 1–24. Mineralogicheskii sbornik, 1950–73, nos. 4–27.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(inorganic chemistry)
The science which concerns the study of natural inorganic substances called minerals.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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