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In simple terms, mineralogy is the study of minerals as a whole, that is, their crystal structure, chemistry and physical properties. It also entails the study of their origin, formation, their classification as well as their use. The study of minerals started since the early days, even before the advent of the technology now used to study them. Early mineralogy started in places like ancient Babylonia, Medieval China, ancient India and the Islamic world with one of the principal studies being on gemstones.

Georgius Agricola, the Renaissance specialist in Germany was a pioneer in mineralogy publications. One of his works was De re Metallica (Metals) written in 1556. His other work, De Natara Fossilium (Nature of Rocks) was written in 1546, this gave mineralogy a systematic approach. Scientific studies on minerals started after the Renaissance.

Modern mineralogy started during the study of crystallography (which dates back to the eighteenth century), in addition to the microscopic perspective of rocks when the microscope was invented. One of the early and fundamental concerns in mineralogy was the scientific classification of rock-forming minerals (otherwise called taxonomy). Due to this, the International Mineralogical Association was created, and its members are mineralogists in various countries. They are responsible for naming minerals as well as their respective locations. According to their research, there are presently 4000 categories of minerals. 150 of these minerals are regarded as "common", 50 are classified as "uncommon" and the remaining vary, ranging from "scarce" to "extremely scarce".

Aspects of Mineralogy

1. Physical Mineralogy: This is the study of the physical characteristics of minerals. It studies qualities like crystal structure, cleavage, lustre, etc.

2. Chemical Mineralogy: This classifies minerals according to their chemical configuration.

3. Biomineralogy: This studies the biological effects on minerals with plants and animals serving as vectors.

4. Optical Mineralogy: This studies minerals with respect to the behaviour of light in and around them.

Due to the present computational improvements and experimental methods, mineralogists have reached out into solid state physics and inorganic chemistry.

Additional Resources

Migmatite   Muscovite   Nepheline

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