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Logotyp för Naturhistoriska riksmuseet
Logotyp för Naturhistoriska riksmuseet
Samlingsföremål från geologiska enheten, många små prover med tillhörande etiketter.

Central Figures ("Agents") for the Collections' Acquisition and Exploration

Learn more about the fascinating people behind our impressive geological collections at the National Museum for Natural History, dating back to the 16th century.

Research History

Jacob Berzelius (1779-1848) was born in Väversunda, Östergötland, and grew up under humble circumstances. Despite his modest upbringing, he had a head for learning and went on to study medicine and chemistry at Uppsala University. After initially working as an unpaid adjunct, he continued as a poor-law physician in Stockholm. His scientific career then rapidly took off, and in 1808, he became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, where he was elected permanent secretary in 1818. Initially, he mainly analyzed minerals chemically and established a new mineral system in 1814, where their chemical composition formed the basis—a system that still underlies the classification of minerals today.

He discovered new elements, described the definite chemical proportions, proposed a new symbolic language for elements, measured the atomic weights for nearly all then-known elements, among other accomplishments. His comprehensive chemistry textbook was translated into many languages and became an important source for the further development of chemistry worldwide. After Carl Linnaeus, he is Sweden's most distinguished natural scientist and one of the world's greatest chemists ever.

His extensive mineral collection, which formed the basis for many of his chemical studies, was donated to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Swedish Museum of Natural History according to his will. It reflects the many scientific contacts he had with the then-active natural scientists of the world, as he personally wrote all the labels with notes on who he received the samples from.

Gustaf Flink (1849–1931) was born in Västergötland and trained as a primary school teacher in Gothenburg, working in Stockholm during the 1870s. Here, he came into contact with the newly established Stockholm University, where he studied chemistry and mineralogy in the early 1880s. Flink proved to have a talent for mineralogical observations and in 1883 joined Nordenskiöld's Greenland expedition, where, left in Iceland, he collected a rich material of, among others, zeolites.

Parallel to his studies and mineralogical research, he established a mineral trade and often traveled to Norway and Russia, and once to Greenland, for collecting and purchasing minerals. His research in descriptive mineralogy was primarily dedicated to minerals from Långban, Harstigen, and Nordmark in eastern Värmland, but also southern Greenland and Langesundsfjorden in southern Norway. Flink discovered and described 21 new minerals (such as långbanite, molybdophyllite, trimerite, narsarsukite, neptunite, synchysite).

From 1906 to 1916, he worked as an assistant at the museum and established a lively exchange business. As a retiree, he almost exclusively dedicated himself to the mineralogy of the Långban mines, and together with the ore sorter Karl Johan Finneman in Långban, collected several thousand specimens for future researchers to study in the museum's mineral collection.

Axel Hamberg (1863–1933) received early training in scientific subjects. He was educated at Stockholm University under Waldemar Christofer Brøgger but earned his doctorate at Uppsala University in geography in 1901. He developed great skill in both crystallography and chemical mineral analysis and built up an extensive mineral collection during his studies. His mineralogical research focused on finds of remarkable, and even completely unknown, minerals at several of the eastern Värmland mining fields, including Harstigen outside Persberg, which became his favorite site. He often collected in the field himself but also bought materials from local miners for his own account.

Over time, his broad interests focused more on geography in a wider sense, and in 1907, he became an extraordinary professor at Uppsala University. Here, he taught and led the exploration of the Sarek mountain area. Almost every summer from 1895-1931, Hamberg worked there and is still intimately associated with it today.

Upon his death, his mineral collection was bequeathed to the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

Sven Hedin (1865–1952) is a well-known Swedish explorer who explored relatively unknown parts of Asia. He was educated in geology and geography, with degrees from Swedish and German institutions, but financed his explorations with his own funds and support from patrons. Over a period of more than 40 years, he led four expeditions to remote and uninhabited regions of Central Asia, in China (Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia) and Tajikistan (Pamir). Parts of the collections from there are stored at the museum.

Together with his colleagues, he collected over 2,500 rock samples in the field, including blueschists, mantle peridotites, serpentinites, granitoids, alkaline lavas, mylonites, and sedimentary rocks (sandstone, limestone). Many of the samples have not been closely examined.

Wilhelm Hisinger (1766–1852), as the son of a wealthy industrialist in Skinnskatteberg, had the opportunity to study chemistry at Uppsala University, among other subjects. He brought his interest in chemistry, mineralogy, and geology home after taking over the industrial operations from his father. In his free time, he could devote himself to private research, with his own laboratory and, over time, extensive geological and mineralogical collections. He traveled extensively in Sweden and Norway, making careful geological observations that formed the basis of many of his publications, which he published at his own expense. He is the first to conduct extensive mappings of Sweden's bedrock and even the first to create geological profiles over larger land areas.

Together with Jacob Berzelius, he discovered and described the element cerium in 1804, and he had a decisive impact on Berzelius's scientific maturity and establishment in Stockholm in the early 19th century.

In 1823, Hisinger donated a collection of more than five hundred mineral samples from primarily Sweden to the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and in 1831, he also donated a nearly twice as large collection of rocks from Norway and Sweden. These gifts became important for the continued growth of the collection during the 19th century, and many of his rock samples refer to his publications, thus serving as early reference material. Finally, in 1920, the Heijkenskjöld family donated his private mineral collection to the museum, about 4,000 specimens.

Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (1832–1901) trained as a mineralogist in his native Finland, then a Russian grand duchy, and in Germany. He came to Sweden in 1858 to take up the position of curator at the museum's mineralogical department, where he remained until his death 42 years later. Nordenskiöld was one of his time's great celebrities, also known as a politician, author, and cartographer.

He led several ship expeditions to Svalbard (3), Greenland (2), and the Arctic Siberia (3). The most successful and famous expedition was through the Northeast Passage (Vega Expedition 1878–1880).

During his tenure, the collections grew significantly. He collected himself and through agents, exchanged minerals with other museums, and bought from foreign mineral dealers. Samples from the polar regions and Scandinavia dominate. Among the marvels is a 22-ton block of native iron that he encountered in 1870 at Ovifak on the island of Disko (Uivfaq, Qeqertarsuaq) during his first Greenlandic journey. This block is now located outside the museum's southern wing, opposite Vegaplatsen.

Nordenskiöld was also interested in meteorites and plant fossils, laying the foundation for the collections present in the museum today. Among his mineralogical works, the discovery of the first thallium mineral, crookesite from Skrikerum (Östergötland County), and descriptions of rare lead-rich minerals from Långban (Värmland): hyalotekite, ganomalite, hydrocerussite, ekdemite. The chemical analyses were usually performed by Gustaf Lindström (1838–1916), who was Nordenskiöld's only scientific collaborator in the department throughout the years.

Hjalmar Sjögren (1856–1922) earned a mining degree in Lund in 1880 and continued his academic career at Uppsala University, where, after earning a doctorate in 1882, he became a professor of mineralogy and geology. In November 1901, he was appointed curator of the mineralogical department at the Swedish Museum of Natural History following Nordenskiöld's death.

Sjögren's scientific works primarily focused on mineralogical and ore geological problems. He conducted studies of rare minerals from Nordmark and Långban in Värmland. Some of these minerals, such as the arsenates tilasite, retzian, adelit, and svabit, were previously completely unknown. His ore geological works mainly dealt with the formation of the iron ores in Bergslagen and Norwegian iron and sulfide ores, for example, Dunderland and Sulitelma.

On January 1, 1902, he donated his private mineral collection to the Swedish Museum of Natural History upon assuming the position of curator. It is the most exclusive collection ever compiled in Sweden. In addition to a range of showpieces purchased around the world, the collection contains both his own and his father, Anton Sjögren's, original material for scientific works. Sjögren's mineral collection is today displayed in its original cabinets, with elegant display case tops and beautiful inlaid decorations.

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