Torbern Bergman

Torbern Olaf Bergman;Torbern Olof Bergman

1735 (Katerineberg, Sweden) – 1784 (Medevi)

Bergman, who made important advances in the systematic analysis and chemical classification of minerals, and on stratification, is less widely-known than he might be, his work being published neither in Latin nor (for the most part) in English. He studied with and became a colleague of Linnaeus, whose ideas influenced him strongly. He followed his correspondent Priestley in making carbonated water, and was described by another correspondent, Werner, as cool-headed and sharp-minded. Guyton translated him into French, and Withering (for once) into English; Elhuyar, Gadolin and most notably Scheele were among his students.

Torbern Bergman knew…

Friedrich Mohs

1773 (Gernrode, Germany) – 1839 (Agordo, Italy)

The table of hardness for minerals that Mohs devised is still used. Werner taught him at the mining academy in Frieberg; Whewell, an important figure in modern crystallography, visited him. Mohs’ interest in physical (rather than chemical) attributes of minerals ran against current trends, but in fact very usefully complements chemical analysis in its practical directness.

Andrés Manuel del Río

Andrés Manuel del Río Fernández

1764 (Madrid) – 1849 (Mexico City)

Del Río was a significant pioneer in New World mineralogy. He studied in Freiberg under Werner, meeting Humboldt (a good friend and later an important collaborator) there. He also studied under Lavoisier, and worked together with Haüy, the founder of crystallography. Despite their friendship, del Río rather unfairly found it impossible to forgive Humboldt for his failure to recognise his discovery of the new element to be known as vanadium.

René Just Haüy

Abbé Haüy

1743 (Saint-Just-en-Chausée, France) – 1822 (Paris)

Valentin Haüy was his younger brother. Daubenton taught and encouraged him. Lamarck was friend as well as fellow-academician: they started a short-lived journal together. Lagrange, Laplace, Fourcroy, Berthollet, Malus and Legendre were colleagues at the Académie des Sciences. Geoffroy, a colleague and former pupil, interceded to have him freed from imprisonment during the Revolution (Haüy had to be persuaded to leave). He himself tried unsuccessfully to get Lavoisier freed (together they had earlier determined the weight of the kilogram). A suggestion of Coulomb’s led to his work on piezoelectricity.