GEORG AGRICOLA (1494 - 1555). De Ortu et Causis Subterraneorum [and other works]. Basel: Hieronymus Frobenius and Nikolaus Episcopius, 1546.

From 1518 to 1522, Agricola studied medicine and chemistry and in 1527, he opened a medical practice in Joachimsthal, Czechoslovakia. In this locality, with the mining activities of the surrounding area impacting his daily life, Agricola began to study mining techniques and mineralogy, and he became one of the extraordinary scientists of his age. For his works that dealt with mining and mineralogy, he was labeled "the father of mineralogy."

The first work in the collected edition, De Ortu et Causis Subterraneorum (On Subterranean Origins and Causes), appears here for the first time. It discusses the origin and distribution of ground water and mineralizing juices, the origin of subterranean heat, the origin of ore channels, and the principal divisions of the mineral kingdom as given in De Natura Fossilium.

Also making its first appearance in this 1546 book is Agricola's De Natura Fossilium (On the Nature of Fossils), his most important statement on mineralogy. De Natura Fossilium is often cited as the publication that marked the beginning of mineralogy as a science. In this work, Agricola rejected the general view of Aristotle that stones, metals, and gems had their origin in the influence of heavenly bodies. Instead he looked to natural causes, to the solution of minerals in liquids and their precipitation by gravity, heat, cold, and evaporation. Agricola's system of classification exhibits a degree of generalization not found in earlier handbooks.

Agricola was a practical man and the De Natura Fossilium contains detailed descriptions of the characteristics of minerals such as color, brilliance, taste, shape, hardness, etc. Among the substances described are salt, soda, potash, saltpeter, alum, vitriol, orpiment, camphor, bitumen, coal, amber, lodestone, bloodstone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, mica, geodes and various fossils, fluorite, quartz, marble, serpentine, onyx, alabaster, limestone, gold, silver, copper, lead, quicksilver, iron, tin, antimony, and zinc. Also included are descriptions of useful operations such as gilding and making brass.

Schuh, Curtis P. Mineralogy & Crystallography: An Annotated Bibliography of Books Published 1469 through 1919. Tucson: privately published, 2005, p20.

List of books in exhibit (links go to author information and references)