The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


THE Department of Mineralogy was one of the earliest departments established at the University, and the first purchase authorized by the Board of Regents was an expenditure for a collection of minerals for this department. At a meeting of the Board held in November, 1837, Dr. John Torrey, of New York City, was asked to examine and report on a collection of 2,600 specimens, largely from European localities, which was offered for sale by Baron L. Lederer, and the Regents, upon receiving a favorable report at their January meeting, 1838, concluded the purchase of this collection for $4,000. When it is recalled that the University did not open its doors to students until the fall of 1841, the foresight of the first Board indicated by this early purchase is evident. This valuable cabinet of minerals became the nucleus of our present museum collections, which in subsequent years have been augmented frequently by additional purchases, or through gifts and exchange of specimens.

At the October meeting of the Regents in 1839, the first appointment was made Page  658to the teaching staff of the Department of Mineralogy. Douglass Houghton (A.M. and M.D. Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst. '29) was tendered the position of Professor of Geology and Mineralogy, and also was "charged with the subjects of Chemistry and Pharmacy till the Regents take further order in relation thereto" (R.P., 1837-64, p. 100). Because of his training and experience the selection of Houghton was very fitting. After his college training he had accompanied Schoolcraft on an expedition to the copper-mining region of Lake Superior. He had written a "Report on the Existence of Deposits of Copper in the Geological Basin of Lake Superior," which had attracted so much attention that in 1837 he was appointed state geologist.

His appointment as Professor carried with it a salary of $1,500 a year, but it was stipulated that the salary was not to begin until he entered upon his duties as a teacher, and as circumstances prevented him from assuming regular duties in Ann Arbor, he never received any salary from the University. It is reported, however, that he did give a brief course of lectures (Farrand, p. 55), and some confirmation of this statement may be found in the faculty report for 1842 (Sen. Doc., 1843, No. 5, app., p. 84). Although in the first Catalogues, 1843-44 and 1844-45, mineralogy was scheduled for the third term of the junior year and Houghton was listed as Professor of Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology, there is a lack of evidence in reports of work completed that the mineralogy course was actually given.

While engaged on a geological survey of the Upper Penninsula, Houghton lost his life in a storm on Lake Superior, October 13, 1845. Although his association with the University was all too brief, his influence was enduring, as his collections of mineralogical and geological specimens came into possession of the University through an act of the legislature passed in 1846.

Silas Hamilton Douglass (A.M. hon. Vermont '47), who had formerly accompanied Houghton on his geological surveys of Michigan and had served for one year as his assistant, especially in chemistry, was placed in charge of the department after Houghton's death in 1845. He was a man of unusual ability, and during his thirty-three years with the University he was called upon to serve in many and varied capacities, as indicated by the titles he held at different times. After serving as a lecturer on chemistry and geology in 1845-46 he held the following professorships: chemistry and geology, 1846-47; chemistry, mineralogy, and geology, 1847-50; chemistry, pharmacy, medical jurisprudence, geology, and mineralogy, 1850-55; chemistry, mineralogy, pharmacy, and toxicology, 1855-70; chemistry and mineralogy,* 1870-74; chemistry, 1874-75; and metallurgy and chemical technology, 1875-77. Also, he was Director of the Chemical Laboratory, 1870-77.

Thus it appears that the first actual systematic instruction given in mineralogy dates back to 1845, when Silas Douglass was placed in charge of the department. In 1874, largely because of the increasing demands upon his time as the result of the rapid expansion in the field of chemistry, the Regents, at their October meeting, relieved him of some of his responsibilities by voting to drop the word "mineralogy" from his title.*

Douglass was followed by Eugene Woldemar Hilgard (Ph.D. Heidelberg '53, LL.D. Michigan '87), who had studied at the Royal Mining School at Freiberg and also at Zurich and Heidelberg. When Page  659the invitation was extended to him he was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Mississippi and state geologist. In 1873 he came to Michigan as Professor of Geology, Zoology, and Botany, but the following year his title was changed to include mineralogy. His tenure was very brief, however, for he submitted his resignation, effective in March, 1875, in order to accept the professorship of agricultural chemistry at the University of California and to be the director of the State Agricultural Experiment Station.

Hilgard received many honorary degrees. In 1903 the University of Heidelberg, reconferring a degree after an interval of fifty years — a very unusual procedure — gave him the honorary diploma of doctor of philosophy.

Certain developments between 1865 and 1875 in a field closely related to that of mineralogy largely determined the choice of the next man who was called to carry on the work. With the early recognition of the importance of the copper and iron deposits in the state, it was but natural that sooner or later agitation for the establishment of a School of Mines at the University would develop. This discussion apparently originated within the faculty of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts. In March, 1865, the president reported that the faculty had considered the propriety of establishing a School of Mines and desired authority to do so. This authorization was granted by a resolution passed on March 28, 1865:

Resolved, That the President and Academic Faculty be requested to prepare an article for insertion in the Annual Catalogue on the subject of a School of Mines, so far as now developed in the University; and that the degree of Mining Engineer be conferred on those who complete the course of study prescribed in the same.

(R.P., 1864-70, p. 78.)
Thus the University undertook, in a small way and without special appointments or legislative appropriation, to give instruction in this new field. Two degrees of mining engineer were conferred in 1867, six in 1868, and seven in 1869.

It must have become apparent shortly that the limited number of courses given was wholly inadequate in preparation for such a profession, and that in justice to the many people in the state interested in the mining industry, a more comprehensive program of study and greater laboratory facilities should be offered. In 1875 the Regents were authorized to establish a School of Mines (including a Department of Architecture), and the legislature made appropriations of $8,000 for salaries and of $2,500 for apparatus for each of the two college years 1875-76 and 1876-77. Three professorships were provided — in mining engineering, in metallurgy, and in architecture and design — and provision was also made for employing assistants if they should be needed. Accordingly, Douglas* was transferred to the professorship of metallurgy and chemical technology, and William Henry Pettee (Harvard '61) became Professor of Mining Engineering in 1875. At the time of his appointment Pettee had spent three years at the mining school at Freiberg, Saxony, and eleven years teaching at Harvard University, where he was Assistant Professor of Mining Engineering.

As noted above, the appropriations for the School of Mines were made for a two-year period, but the legislature of 1877 failed to provide for its continued support. Hopeful that the legislature might reconsider its action at the following session, the professors of mining engineering and metallurgy "struggled on for two years without pay …" (Farrand, p. 223). No financial support was in sight, and the School of Mines at the University was therefore definitely abandoned. Page  660No precise reason can be assigned to the action of the legislature in changing its attitude within the short period of two years, unless it was the small enrollment in this field of engineering or a growing feeling among some of the members of the legislature that the School of Mines should be situated in the Upper Peninsula.

In June, 1877, upon the abandonment of the School of Mines, Pettee submitted his resignation as Professor of Mining Engineering, but was immediately given the appointment of Professor of Geology in charge of Mining Engineering, effective the next October. He became Professor of Mineralogy and Economic Geology two years later and Professor of Mineralogy, Economic Geology, and Mining Engineering in 1881. He continued to give the instruction in mineralogy until the time of his death in 1904, although during the latter part of his regime he was burdened with an excessive amount of editorial work, especially in connection with the printing of the annual University Calendar(see Part II: Office of the Registrar). This naturally interfered with his teaching to such an extent that only a few courses were offered.

Edward Henry Kraus (Syracuse '96, LL.D. ibid. '34, Ph.D. Munich '01) became Assistant Professor of Mineralogy in 1904, succeeding Professor Pettee. Four years later his title read Professor of Mineralogy and Petrography and Director of the Mineralogical Laboratory. The growth of the department under Kraus's leadership was remarkably rapid, largely because of his energy, enthusiasm, and foresight. The number of courses offered was increased, and the enrollment mounted. The Regents, clearly aware of the needs of an expanding department, graciously voted liberal appropriations which made it possible to enlarge the departmental personnel and to provide the necessary apparatus and equipment. The teaching staff was gradually increased, until at the present time it consists of five members of professorial rank and a number of assistants. Fortunately, during this period of very rapid expansion new quarters for the department were provided in the Natural Science Building.

In addition to being a stimulating teacher, Professor Kraus possesses rare executive and administrative abilities. He has therefore been called upon frequently to serve the University in various additional capacities. From 1911 to 1915 he served as Acting Dean of the Summer Session and from 1915 to 1933 as Dean; in the School (later, College) of Pharmacy, he was Acting Dean from 1920 to 1923, and Dean from 1923 until 1933.

After the death of Dean Effinger in 1933, Professor Kraus was appointed Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (see Part III: Administration and Curriculums). Because of his many duties as head of the largest administrative unit of the University, he has been relieved of all formal teaching, although he is still a member of the staff, and in 1933 the affairs of the department were placed in the hands of Walter Fred Hunt ('04, Ph.D. '15) as Chairman.

In 1939-40 the personnel of the Department of Mineralogy was as follows: Edward Henry Kraus, Professor of Crystallography and Mineralogy and Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Walter Fred Hunt, Professor of Petrology and Chairman of the Department of Mineralogy; Albert Becker Peck (Syracuse '14, Ph.D. Michigan '25), Associate Professor of Mineralogy; Lewis Stephen Ramsdell ('17, Ph.D. '25), Associate Professor of Mineralogy; Chester Baker Slawson ('19, Ph.D. '25), Associate Professor of Mineralogy; Marion V. Denny ('32, M.S. '33), Assistant Curator; Robert A. Hatch ('37, M.S. '38), Page  661teaching fellow; and William B. Colburn, Honorary Associate Curator.

Program of studies. — The subject of mineralogy might appear to cover a very restricted field of natural science, limited to students desirous of becoming professional mineralogists and geologists. To these groups its appeal is especially direct, but also, as a service science, mineralogy is valuable to students in many related fields. Certain optical methods perfected by the mineralogist find application in other branches of science and in industry, so that present elections in mineralogy include students enrolled in six schools and colleges — the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the Graduate School, and the Colleges of Pharmacy, Forestry, Architecture, and Engineering.

One of the methods commonly employed in the purification of both organic and inorganic compounds is that termed recrystallization, in which bodies bounded more or less completely by natural plane surfaces, called crystals, are formed. A knowledge of crystallography and of the methods employed for determining the optical properties of crystals — especially the recognition of crystal forms and the use of the petrographic microsope for obtaining the required optical data — is essential for the pharmacy student.

Students in forestry are concerned with the various types of soils. For a full understanding of the transformation from a solid rock mass to a residual soil, some knowledge of the chemical and physical properties of the original minerals is absolutely necessary. It is also highly desirable for the student of forestry to recognize the more common minerals and rocks and the important ores.

Not only do the various stones used in construction possess varying degrees of resistance to climatic changes and to the corroding influence of our acid atmosphere, but one and the same stone may show considerable variation in "life," depending upon its location and the construction methods employed. There are numerous instances, both in this country and Europe, in which the architect or the engineer has selected the wrong type of material. In many universities and colleges, therefore, students of architecture and engineering are required to elect courses in mineralogy.

In recent years also the use of X rays has been extended to include their application in the testing of materials, especially steel castings and nonferrous alloys. Here again, a proper interpretation of the behavior of matter when placed in the path of these penetrating rays requires a knowledge of one phase of crystallography. Indirectly, a knowledge of mineralogy also serves the chemist and ceramist, and, if the experience of the past is any indication of the trend in the future, it is not at all unlikely that further diversification of courses in mineralogy will be needed for students in special fields.

Present quarters and facilities. — With the completion of the Natural Science Building in 1915, the Department of Mineralogy moved into its present location from the dingy, cramped, and wholly inadequate quarters in the basement of Tappan Hall. The Natural Science Building was constructed to house the Departments of Botany, Forestry, Geology, Mineralogy, Psychology, and Zoology. In order that this building might contain the best facilities for instruction in these fields, representatives from the departments concerned visited other leading institutions with Mr. Albert Kahn, the architect, in order to study the methods and equipment that had been adopted elsewhere. Many of the valuable suggestions thus obtained were incorporated in the final plans of the building. One of the advantages most Page  662desired was the maximum amount of floor space and light, and it is the universal consent of those who have visited the building that these objectives have been achieved.

Each of the six departments was assigned a vertical section from the basement to the roof. This arrangement permitted the Department of Mineralogy to install heavy machinery and piers for the mounting of special apparatus on the ground floor and also provided excellent facilities for storage and for the shipping and receiving of material. The other floors are utilized for laboratories, lecture rooms, offices, and a large display room for mineral collections.

The Department of Mineralogy occupies the northeast part of the building and comprises thirty-five rooms. This northern exposure is especially desirable for microscopic work because of the uniform and diffused light in both winter and summer. On the first or ground floor there are three research rooms provided with nonvibration piers and equipped with water, gas, compressed air, and alternating and direct current; two offices for those engaged in research conducted on this floor; a laboratory for the preparation of both thin and polished sections; and storage rooms.

On the second floor are the general lecture room, with a seating capacity of one hundred students; model rooms, containing material for demonstration purposes; an office; and a large room, twenty-four by seventy-two feet, devoted to the exhibition of gems, minerals, and rocks. This room is open to the public daily. The corridors on the second floor have been lined with glass cases containing special and unusual exhibits.

The main laboratories for general mineralogy and for the more advanced work in mineral and rock analysis are on the third floor. Also on this floor are two offices, a balance room, and a well-supplied stockroom to furnish all the necessary materials and equipment for the accurate and complete determination of minerals by both physical and chemical means.

On the top, or fourth, floor, ample facilities are afforded for the optical study of minerals and for instruction in crystal measurements. Likewise, the work involving the critical study of rocks, by megascopic methods and by the use of the petrographic microscope, is carried on to advantage on the top floor, as the northern unobstructed exposure furnishes ideal light conditions for such studies. Also, a rather complete library of reprints of articles on mineralogy assembled by the staff has been installed and has been well indexed for reference use by advanced students.

The department is well equipped with crystal models, structure models, natural crystals, and working collections of minerals, rocks, and thin sections. Crystallographic and optical apparatus of the most modern types renders it possible to carry on teaching and research in every phase of crystallography, mineralogy, and petrography.

Publications. — Among the publications from the mineralogical laboratory between 1903 and 1937 are six textbooks and 108 scientific papers. The textbooks cover the general fields of crystallography, descriptive mineralogy, determinative tables, general mineralogy, and gem materials:

  • Essentials of Crystallography (1906), Edward H. Kraus
  • Descriptive Mineralogy (1911), Edward H. Kraus
  • Mineralogy — an Introduction to the Study of Minerals and Crystals (3d ed.; 1936), Edward H. Kraus, Walter F. Hunt, and Lewis S. Ramsdell
  • Tables for the Determination of Minerals (2d ed.; 1930), Edward H. Kraus and Walter F. Hunt
  • Gems and Gem Materials (2d ed.; 1931), Edward H. Kraus and E. F. Holden
  • Petrographic Methods (translation from the German of Weinschenk's book; 1912), Robert W. Clark

Page  663The scientific papers likewise cover a wide range of contributions relating to (a) occurrence and origin of minerals, (b) crystallographic forms observed on crystals, (c) X-ray investigations of crystal structures, (d) variations in microstructure and optical properties of minerals at high temperatures, (e) petrographic studies of rocks and minerals, and (f) new apparatus to determine specific properties of minerals and rocks.


Calendar, Univ. Mich., 1871-1914.
Catalogue …, Univ. Mich., 1845-71, 1914-23.
Catalogue and Register, Univ. Mich., 1923-27.
Farrand, Elizabeth M.History of the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor: Register Publ. House, 1885.
General Register Issue, Univ. Mich., 1927-40.
Hinsdale, Burke A.History of the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1906.
President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1874-1940.
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1864-1940. (R.P.)
Michigan. Senate Documents, 1843. (Sen. Doc.)
University of Michigan Regent's Proceedings …, 1837-1864. Ed. by Isaac N. Demmon. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1915. (R.P., 1837-64).