Friday, February 25, 2011

Correspondence of the Sydney Mining Museum - Part V - Meteorites

Another well-known correspondent of the Sydney Mining Museum was Friedrich Berwerth (1850-1918), who became head of the Mineralogical-Petrographical Department of the Natural History Museum in Vienna in 1895, and then curator of the Vienna meteorite collection in 1896 when Aristides Brezina (1848-1909) retired from the position in 1896.  A short biography with photo and signature of Berwerth can be found on the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien website and in Brandst├Ątter.

When George Card, curator of the Sydney Mining Museum, read about the fall of the Crumlin meteorite in the October 9, 1902 issue of Nature, he sent a communication to the journal which appeared in the February 12, 1903 issue (Figure 1 - click on image to enlarge, click again to enlarge further).  The note, entitled " A New South Wales Meteorite", reported on the fall of the 25-pound Mt. Browne meteorite on July 17, 1902.

 Figure 1:  Card's Feb. 1903 Mt. Browne Communication in Nature

The communication in Nature caught Berwerth's attention, because he wrote a letter to Card soon after it appeared (see Figures 2 and 3 - click to enlarge, click again to enlarge further).

Figure 2.  Copyright © Mark I. Grossman

Figure 3.  Copyright © Mark I. Grossman

 A rough translation of the German letter reads as follows:

Vienna, 29 March 1903

To Mr. G. W. Card

Dear Sir,

I read your notice about the Mount Browne meteorite that fell on 9 October 1902.  I am very interested in the stone.  Since you will break the stone in order to examine it I am taking the freedom to ask you to give me a sample for our large Viennese meteorite collection.  It is important in this place to receive meteorite material to study it.  I ask you kindly to leave me a sample to discover the value in case of a purchase.  I am sending you the new meteorite catalogue and some of my work about meteorites.

Hoping to hear from you, I am sincerely yours,
Prof. Friedrich Berwerth

Berwerth appears to have mixed up the date of the notice with the fall of the meteorite, which as noted occurred on July 17, 1902.  It is interesting to note the letterhead - Berwerth was definitely conducting official business.  Compare this letter with that of Brezina's in an earlier Meteorite Manuscripts post (Correspondence of the Sydney Mining Museum - Part IV).  Brezina's communication had no letterhead, and he was pursuing samples for his own collection after he retired.

Card published a subsequent communication in September 1903 and indicated that when the meteorite fell, it set a nearby hut on fire, although it did not hit the residence.  In addition, a photograph of the meteorite was included (Figures 4 and 5 - click to enlarge, click again to enlarge further).  A chemical analysis of the meteorite was conducted by H. P. White of the Geological Survey in 1904.

Figure 4:  Card's Sept. 1903 Description of Mt. Browne Fall

 Figure 5:  Main mass of Mt. Browne Meteorite 

Berwerth's letter and the desire to obtain a sample of the Mount Browne meteorite for the famous Vienna collection underscores the importance of the Sydney Mining Museum holdings.   

F. Brandst├Ątter, ‘History of the meteorite collection of the Natural History Museum of Vienna’, in The history of meteoritics and key meteorite collections:  fireballs, falls and finds (Geological Society of London Special Publication no. 256), (ed. G. J. H. McCall, A. J. Bowden and R. J. Howarth), pp. 123-133 at 129-130 (Geological Society London, 2006).

G. W. Card, 'A New South Wales Meteorite', Nature 67 (Feb. 12, 1903), 345

G. W. Card, 'Mineralogical Notes, No. 8', Records of the Geological Survey of New South Wales, 7, pt.3 (Sept.1903), 218, Plate 42.

H. P. White, 'Notes and analysis of the Mt. Browne Meteorite', Records of the Geological Survey of New South Wales, 7, pt.4 (Sept.1904), 312-314.

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