The history of the Department of Mineralogy, Geochemistry and Petrology, similarly to the history of the university, started in 1921, when the Ferenc József University situated in Kolozsvár (today Cluj-Napoca) was relocated to Szeged in consequence of the Treaty of Trianon.
At the beginning István Gaál and Zsigmond Szentpétery were comissioned with the organisational tasks of the Institute and Collection of Mineralogy and Geology already established in Budapest. In Szeged the educational and research works started in the academic year of 1921/22 under the supervision of the director, István Gaál. From 1923 Zsigmond Szentpétery followed him in the position of the director. During his leadership it was possible to execute high-level educational and research work, to improve the material conditions of the institute and to considerately organise the mineralogy and petrology collection which was not specifically rich at that time. Under the leadership of Szentrpétery the series of university journal titled Acta Chemica Mineralogica et Physica, was founded. It was a scientific forum where the results of the scientific works carried out at the department raised the possibility to be published.
In 1940 a new period started both for the department and the university, as after the reannexation of North-Transylvania, the Ferenc József University was located back to Kolozsvár, meanwhile a new university, named after Miklós Horthy, was established in Szeged. This was also the year when Sándor Koch was appointed to be the head of the institute, whose primary aim was to provide uninterrupted education. He also took initial steps to modernise and extend the institute’s mineralogy collection on a large scale. As the result of his activities an outstanding, unique mineralogy collection has been established. The research work was slowly restarted at the department and the results of the various research activities were published in the Acta Mineralogica Petrographica, one of the series of the renewed university journal, the Acta Universitas Szegediensis.
Due to the events of the war in October 1944 the university was evacuated and the whole building was converted into a Soviet military hospital. The values of the departments were packed into boxes, which made their partial or complete survival possible. Based on these preserved values the work became possible to restart in the end of 1945 - at that time already within the framework of the University of Szeged (from 1965 called József Attila University). Besides repairing the assets and the instruments, the manifold and modern systematization of the mineralogy and petrology collection were the main tasks in that time. During the leadership of Sándor Koch the institute was acknowledged not only in Hungary, but also internationally. The fertile and human atmosphere created by the professor launched numerous well-known researchers on their ways.
1967 was the next notable year in the life of the department. Gyula Grasselly, who had started to work at the institute in the academic year of 1941/42 as a commissioned research student was appointed to the head of the department. The institute received not only a new leader but was also given a new name, thus from 1967 it is called the Department of Mineralogy, Geochemistry and Petrology. It is not accidental that the term ’geochemistry’ was incorporated into the name of the department at this time, since by then Grasselly had already had significant scientific achievements in the field of geochemistry. Later under his leadership the institution obtained a world-widely recognised leading role in the field of mangenese and certain organic geochemistrical research. The establishment of more scientific organizations, the writing of numerous fundamental specialized textbooks, the national and international recognition of the scientific journal, the Acta Mineralogica Petrographica and the vice-presidential function of Grasselly in the International Union of Geological Sciences also hallmarked the success of this work.
After the retirement of Gyula Grasselly in 1986 Tibor Szederkényi, who had been working there form 1977, took over the leadership of the department. Under his leadership metamorphic petrology, the geology of Palaeozoic formations and environmental geology became involved in the research activities. All of these facts and the start of the geographer training in 1933 and later the development of the geology specialization made possible the further development of the department, in spite of the difficulties arising from the change of regime.
Between 2000 and 2009 the department was led by Magdolna Hetényi, who had already been teaching and carrying out research work at the department since 1967. Her research activity in connection with organic geochemistry is well-known and internationally recognized. Since the academic year of 2006/2007 the department is responsible for the Geology BSc program, and since the year 2009 also for the MSc program. In 2009, for a short time Elemér Pál-Molnár was the acting leader of the departement and later in that year Tivadar M. Tóth took over this role.