200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 71: “A Chip Off the Old Meteorite ”

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photo of a mineral specimen
Fragment of the Ensisheim meteorite from the Academy's Seybert Mineral Collection.

A Chip Off the Old Meteorite

During the year of its founding in 1812, the Academy purchased an important mineral collection assembled by mineral authority Adam Seybert (1773–1825). Made up of more than 2,000 specimens, the Seybert Collection is the oldest intact collection of minerals in the United States, containing more than 90 percent of all known minerals. It includes the only known minerals collected on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, vials of ash and sulfur, and a piece of a meteorite that fell to the Earth in 1492!

This meteorite is important because it is the oldest meteorite for which a nearly exact fall time was historically recorded. Around noon on November 7, 1492, a young boy watched as this 250-pound meteorite fell in a wheat field in the village of Ensisheim in Alsace, France (then part of Germany). Quickly recorded by artists and writers, the meteorite was considered a sign of good luck, and people began chipping off pieces; one of these is in the Academy’s Seybert Collection. A large specimen of the Ensisheim meteorite still remains in Ensisheim’s Regency Palace.

Learn more about the Academy’s minerals.

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