2023. December 9., Saturday

History of the Sándor Koch Mineral Collection

The history of the Sándor Koch Mineral Collection is closely intertwined with the history of the Department of Mineralogy, Geochemistry and Petrology of the University of Szeged.

As the legal successor of the Franz Joseph University of Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca, Romania), the University moved to Szeged in 1921, after the Treaty of Trianon. The first head of the Institution of Geology and Mineralogy was Zsigmond Szentpétery. The creation of the first mineralogy-petrology collection of the Department, which consisted mainly of the gifts from the Hungarian National Museum, the Budapest University of Technology and the University of Sciences of Budapest, was the merit of Professor Zsigmond Szentpétery.

In 1940-41 Professor Szentpétery left to the University of Kolozsvár. In Szeged the former institution was transformed and two new ones were established: the Institute of Geology and Palaeontology and the Institute of Mineralogy and Petrology. Sándor Koch was nominated as head of the latter one, who had been working at the world-famous Mineralogical Museum of the Hungarian Natural History Museum for fifteen years. (This collection is the result of the forty years of collaboration between Andor Semsey and József Krenner. The most complete mineral collection of the Carpathian Basin was, however, largely destroyed during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.)

At the Institution which was very poorly supplied with minerals Professor Koch exhibited his own collection in an entirely unusual way: by applying the principles of genetic classification. The minerals of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic origin were placed in the first three different cabinets. He set up a so-called crystallographic cabinet – which contained selected, well-developed crystals –, a mineral-physical and a mineral-systematic cabinet. The minerals of the Carpathian Basin were displayed in other cabinets, also in genetic sequence.

Besides the mineralogical collecting trips of Professor Koch and later József Mezősi, the collection was enriched with minerals bought from the donation given for the Department by the Rockefeller Fund. However, due to the lack of contemporary documentation it is unfortunately unknown, which pieces are of this origin. It was probably at this time when the minerals which were partly bought from and partly gifted by the very famous Krantz mineral trade company located in Bonn, as well as the crystallographic models made with excellent craftsmanship were added to the collection.

Due to the collecting trips of the Institution in 1941-43 the collection increased significantly with many interesting pieces mainly from the mining district of Rozsnyó (Roznava, Slovakia) (cinnabar, siderite, wolnyne, albite, etc.) and of Szatmár (Maramures, Romania) which was a re-annexed territory of Hungary at that time. After its reorganisation, the Institution of Mineralogy and Petrology had to pack up again, and due to “superior orders” its instruments and books were transported to Sopron, while the mineral collection was put into boxes and taken down to the basement.

The reconstruction and reorganization of the Institution started in 1945. Approximately 20 per cent of the mineral collection had been damaged and there was a much greater damage caused in the instruments and journals. The enormous database resulting from Professor Koch's twenty years long tireless work, which was created for his monograph, The Minerals of Hungary [Magyarország ásványai] also disappeared at that time. After the war he restarted collecting minerals, however, at this time he restricted his field of interest from the Carpathian Basin to the present territory of Hungary.

In the 1960s and 1970s, as a result of the good international relationships of Professor Koch, the collection increased with various minerals from year to year: with German pieces collected during the field trips to Dresden and Freiberg and with Czechoslovakian ones resulting from the good relations with Brno. In order to further enrich the collection, both field trips (e.g. to Albania and the Soviet Union) and mineral collecting trips to the then active mining districts of Hungary (Rudabánya, Gyöngyösoroszi, Recsk, etc.) were organized regularly.

With the leadership of Professor Koch, the Fülöppite, Csiklovaite, Matraite and Kiscellite were classified and described as new mineral species at the Institution.

  1. Fülöppite - 3PbS·4Sb2S3, place of occurrence: Kereszthegy mine at Nagybánya (Dealul Crucii, Baia Mare, Romania), it was named after its finder, Béla Fülöpp, a lawyer. He was the friend of Sándor Koch who accompanied him on his trips to collect minerals.
  2. Csiklovaite - Bi2TeS2, it was described based on the pieces found in the former gold mine of Nagybörzsöny (Hungary), but it was named after its place of occurrence in Transylvania (Ciclova, Romania),
  3. Matraite - ZnS (3R), the third, rhombic variant of zinc sulphide (beside sphalerite and wurtztite), typical place of occurrence: Gyöngyösoroszi in the Mátra Mountains (the acknowledgement of the Matraite as a separate mineral species is still disputed),
  4. Kiscellite - it is not accepted by the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) as a separate mineral species, it is a fossilized kind of resin from the Kiscell Clay Formation of the Remete Mountain near Budapest.

In 1965 the university purchased the private collection of Sándor Koch, which made it possible to enrich the exhibition.

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