The collections of the Rutgers University Geology Museum date from 1836 and document the transition of science from natural philosophy to today's data driven disciplines. The collections include minerals, fossils, and geologic specimens and emphasize the geology of New Jersey and surrounding states.
The earliest contributor was Lewis C. Beck who worked from 1820 to1850. He was a physician, botanist, entomologist, chemist and geologist. His botanical and entomological specimens and are still in the Rutgers collections. His minerals were the core collection of the Rutgers Scientific School when it was established by George Cook in the 1850s. Many of the collection's original labels document localities from Beck's "Natural History of New York,"1842.
George Cook worked at Rutgers from 1852 to 1886 and headed the New Jersey Geological Survey. The geology museum was his idea and he hoped the exhibits would cultivate the scientific interests of Rutgers students and the public. His position at the NJGS brought many natural history specimens to Rutgers from the 18í long dinosaur trackway to an outstanding fossil sampling of the New Jersey coastal plain.
A.H. Chester was professor of mineralogy at Rutgers from 1893 to 1903. He added more than 4,600 mineral specimens from around the world (including many "type" localities) to the collection. He used type locality specimens to define the minerals because x-ray diffraction was not yet developed. Chesterís "Dictionary of Mineral Names and their Etymologies" was the first comprehensive listing of known minerals listing their original publications and moved mineralogy still closer to the modern era.
Today, the mineral and fossil collections continue to be used in support of research and in the training of scholars. A small fraction of them are on exhibit and are a major attraction for thousands of visitors who come to the Rutgers University Geology Museum each year.
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Last Updated: 10/13/2009