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The Bornite Identity

Image Credit: Sam Droeg

Image Credit: Sam Droege

Movie puns are obviously the best way to start the week. Well, second best. The best way to kick off this week is Mineral Monday.

Bornite is commonly known as Peacock ore, for obvious reasons.

See the resemblance? Image Credit: Vidhya Narayanan via Wikipedia

See the resemblance? Image Credit: Vidhya Narayanan via Wikipedia

The bright iridescence of Bornite (Cu5FeS4) is actually a tarnish on the surface of the mineral. If you cut into it, it would look brown or red, similar to the color of copper. That makes sense, because as you can see from the chemical formula, Bornite is a copper sulfide mineral. And a valuable one too. At about 63% copper, bornite is useful to humanity as a copper ore. It’s useful to the rest of the world as another beautiful shiny thing deep in the earth.

It was first described scientifically in 1725, but it had most assuredly been observed before that by copper miners throughout history. But they were too busy mining to write out a detailed scientific treatise on the shiny things they were digging out of the ground. Once mineralogists got their hands on it though, it started getting a lot of different names, starting with a string of latin names assigned to it in 1747 by Johan Gottschalk Wallerius (For the record, I am not making these names up), then shifting to the more practical ‘purple copper ore’ and ‘variegated copper ore’ by 1803. At one point in the 1790s it was also called buntkupfererz (bless you) by someone named Abraham Gottlieb Werner. Needless to say, that particular tongue twister didn’t catch on. In 1832 it was named “phillipsite” by Wilhelm Sulpice Beudant, presumably in honor of someone named Phillip. But poor Phillip didn’t get to keep his mineral for long.

Bornite didn’t get it’s current name until 1845, when the geological powers that be (apparently someone named Wilhelm Karl von Haidinger) decided to name the mineral after famed 18th-century mineralogist Ignaz von Born.




Can we all take a moment to appreciate that his name was Ignaz? Ok. Good.

Iggy von Born was born in a small corner of Transylvania in 1742, and managed to rise above his unfortunate name and became one of the leading lights of the Enlightenment (sorry, I can’t help myself.) He established the first Natural History museum in Vienna, at the behest of Maria Theresa, and studied minerals and invertebrates among other things. In his spare time Ignaz wrote satires that weren’t all that well received, at least according to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

Thanks to Francie for suggesting this mineral! Is there a mineral you would like to know more about? Let me know in the comments, or on twitter @MaryBethGriggs


State Secret Saturday: NC’s State Fossil

Megalodon Tooth From North Carolina

2013 is drawing to a close, but there’s still time for some great fossils. I’m visiting my family in North Carolina for the holidays, and I recently learned that North Carolina has a new state fossil as of this year*!

The new North Carolina state fossil is a megalodon shark tooth, which can apparently be found on the beaches of North Carolina. I never found one when I visited the beach as a kid, but maybe I wasn’t looking in the right place. You’ve heard of megalodons before — they were the subject of an utterly fake Discovery Channel ‘documentary’ earlier this year. Megalodons were awesomely giant sharks with up to 276 of their razor sharp 6-inch-long teeth in their jaws at any time, but they don’t still exist today.

Eighth graders in Newport, North Carolina came up with the idea as part of a science project. Their teacher then contacted the representative of their district, and the rest is history.

I loved reading the part of the bill that pertains to why megalodon teeth should be the state fossil. Apparently, it’s because the Megalodon was really big, with really big teeth. From the bill that made it into law:

Excerpt from Session Law 2013-189, House Bill 830:

Whereas, the megalodon shark is an extinct shark species that lived over 1.5 million years ago; and
Whereas, the megalodon shark may have reached over 40 feet in length and weighed up to 100 tons; and
Whereas, the megalodon shark had serrated, heart‑shaped teeth that may have grown to over seven inches in length; and
Whereas, fossilized teeth of the megalodon shark have been found in North Carolina and throughout the world…

§ 145-41.  State fossil.
The fossilized teeth of the megalodon shark is adopted as the official fossil of the State of North Carolina.

*Along with a new state art medium, state folk art, and a state marsupial** among others. NC General Assembly, while I enjoy state symbols a lot, you have better things to do with your time <glares at Raleigh>.

**It’s a possum. You know, that magnificent beast which is annually dropped (gently) from a pole at New Years in Brassville, North Carolina.

I…I don’t understand this state sometimes.