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Mineral Sciences

mesolite, radiating crystals

The Mineral Sciences collections include minerals, rocks, meteorites, gems, and related synthetic materials. The mineral collection is world-wide in scope and boasts particular strengths in minerals from California, native gold, and gem crystals. The collections are being actively augmented principally through purchases and donations.

There are approximately 150,000 specimens, including more than 140,000 minerals, nearly 100,000 of which are micromounts, 3,000 rocks, 3,000 gems, and 50 meteorites. Approximately half of all known mineral species are represented in the collections.

research

The collection supports research in a variety of areas in materials science, climate science, pharmaceuticals, environmental remediation, petroleum science, ore deposits, exobiology, bio-mineralogy, and general mineralogical research.  

Our research laboratory has been on public display since 2017.  All experimental stations, collections, and equipment are on view and scientific content is communicated to the visitor by signage, gallery interpreter engagement, video, and social media to our more than 800,000 visitors a year.

The lab includes the following analytical equipment:

  • Raman Microscopy
  • X-ray Fluorescence Microscope 
  • X-ray Diffraction - Single Crystal 
  • X-ray Diffraction - Powder 

Search our Collections

Search the collection by name, variety, or locality. 

Our Staff

Aaron Celestian, Ph.D.
Curator, Mineral Sciences

Dr. Celestian’s currently researches how minerals interact with their environments and with living things, and how those minerals can be used to solve problems like climate change, pollution, and disease.

Anthony R. Kampf, Ph.D.
Curator Emeritus, Mineral Sciences

Dr. Kampf joined the Natural History Museum staff in January 1977, immediately after earning his Ph.D. in mineralogy and crystallography from the University of Chicago.

Alyssa R. Morgan, M.S.
Collections Manager, Mineral Sciences

Alyssa received her bachelor’s degree in Geological Sciences from the University of Washington and her master’s degree in Geological Sciences from Brown University.

Affiliates

Dr. Scott Perl
NASA Jet Proposal Laboratory
Scott is a Research Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, specializing in life in extreme environments and their preservation within the mineral and rock record. He focuses on life in hypersaline environments where evaporite mineralogy has recorded ancient and dried lake beds where life may have resided. He also studies the preservation of microbial community activity, life detection in the mineral-rock record, and further understanding how to validate biogenic signatures and markers over geologic time on other planets and moons. 
   
Dr. George Rossman
CalTech
George is a Professor of Geology at California Technical Institute research focuses on the relationship between the spectroscopic properties of minerals and their composition and structure. Topics include trace hydrous components in minerals, metal ion site occupancy, effects of natural ionizing radiation, and X-ray amorphous materials. 
   
Dr. Robert Housley
Caltech
Dr. Housley is a retired materials scientist and continues to be an active field collector, not with an interest in building up a personal collection, but with a fascination with finding and characterizing unusual natural occurrences.  He has personally found several new minerals and has participated in the discovery and characterization of more than 30.
   
Joe Marty

Joe Marty MS 1976, is a retired Medical Technologist who worked as a Laboratory Manager in Anatomic Pathology at the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Joe discovered ophirite and rowleyite, both which were designated mineral of the year by the International Mineral Association.  In 2008 a new zinc vanadate, martyite, was named in honor of Joe’s mineral discoveries. 

   
Paul Adams
Paul is an acitve collector of rare minerals that often leads to the discovery of new to science species.  Paul has worked in the aerospace industry for 40+ years as a microscopist and spectroscopist.  His research interests are centered around descriptive mineralogy of localities in southern California and Nevada.  They have resulted in the description of 12 new mineral species (ferrisurite, meurigite (Na), iangreyite, krasnoite, fluorowardite, ferribushmakinite, carminite, pauladamsite, whiteite(CaMgMg), fluorwavellite,  lasalite, okieite).