The last two dozen articles in this series have focused on six major mining camps and deposit types that were discovered in the southwestern United States
between 1850 and 1900: California Motherlode, Comstock, Homestake, Butte, Bingham, and Nevada-type Gold. They were chosen because they were among the most
influential discoveries during that period, measured by their immediate and lasting impact on global exploration. As it turns out, that exploration and
research led rapidly to the modern renaissance of the branch of science called economic or mining geology.
This series initially traced the study of the origin of metals from Eastern Europe, in the age of Agricola, to France and Scotland-where the link was
recognized between metals and the processes that produced volcanic and plutonic rocks -and finally to Cornwall. It is easy to forget that prior to the
California Gold Rush, most economic geologists were members of specialized local guilds in the tin/copper districts of Erzegebirge and Cornwall or were
engaged in coal and iron mining. They had been trained mainly as mining engineers in a dozen institutes in Europe and Great Britain. Geology had been
restricted to stratigraphy, mineralogy and paleontology. In the words of Thomas Rickard (1910):
"The study of ore deposits for a hundred years owed its progress to German research. In England, the detection of fossils and the correlation of strata
absorbed the attention of geologists to the exclusion of investigation into the nature of the mineral aggregates that are the subject of mining ...
Englishmen founded geology and Germans started the systematic study of ore deposits; but it was in America that economic geology won proper recognition ...
"Indeed, not only did geology give the cold shoulder to mining but when geolo-gists condescended to be interested in mineral deposits, they made blunders
highly perplexing even to those willing to accept scientific aid. Thus Murchison rashly enunciated the generalization that the Silurian rocks were
particularly favorable to gold veins, basing this broad statement on his knowledge of the Ural region; and when gold was discovered in Australia in slate
and sandstone of Silurian age, he congratulated himself on the confirmation of his dictum. Later, he interpreted the scanty data at his disposal as
warranting the inference that deep mining in the solid quartz rock is usually unprofitable. No wonder the miner looked askance at the geologist, so that
there was a lack of cooperation between the young science and the venerable industry. Moreover; the idea obtained in England that geology stooped to
commercialism when she concerned herself with mining ...
"This tradition in effect prevented English geologists from attempting to unravel the complexities of ore occurrence. A notable example is afforded by the
Geological Society (London). This organization was founded by the fathers of modem geology, and in its records will be found the presentation of the
principles that constitute the very foundations of the science. Yet the sum total of the information concerning ore deposits to be found in the journals of
the Geological Society is negligible. Englishmen as geologists occupy a position second to none; as contributors to the study of ore deposits they are
nowhere. I impute the poverty of result entirely to the fact that men of culture have deemed it undignified to make commercial use of the scientific
Economic geology only became a "dignified" profession after it made the jump to North America. It will surprise and perhaps disappoint many geologists to
learn that the first economic geologists in North America were educated as mining or civil engineers, simply because engineering was the best training
available at the time. Included were engineers such as Thomas Rickard (1864-1953), an English graduate of the Royal School of Mines in London; Waldemar
Lindgren (1860-1939), a Swedish graduate of the Bergakademie at Freiberg, Germany; Rossiter W Raymond (1840-1918), an American educated at the Brooklyn
Polytechnic Institute, the Bergakademie at Freiberg, and Heidelberg and Munich universities; and Richard P. Rothwell (1836-1901), a Canadian (born at
Oxford, Ontario) educated at the Rensselaer Bergakademie at Freiberg. They represent a small minority of mining engineers at that time who learned some
basic geology during their technical training and early field careers, and also had a natural interest in the geology of the mines they visited. In
addition, they achieved great influence because of their skills in observation and communication.
Good mining engineers were in great demand during the rapid growth of the mining industry in the latter half of the 19th century, and some had an
opportunity to travel widely throughout North America and to new mining districts around the world. Although they probably did not realize it at the time,
they were helping to establish the foundations of economic geology.
The next few articles will examine some of the factors that enabled economic geology and the mining industry to grow so quickly. These included the
establishment of: high-quality mining newspapers and technical journals, which were the 19th century equivalent of today's Internet; technical associations
that provided forums for discussion at con-ferences; new university departments and schools of mines for training economic geologists and conducting
research; and federal and state/provincial geological surveys in the United States, Canada and worldwide, which adopted an increased focus on economic
The initial emphasis will be on those who had an influential early impact due to their roles as both geologists and journalists/authors, such as Thomas
Arthur Rickard. "TA," as he was called, was perfectly groomed for this role. His father, grandfather and great grandfather were all Cornish mining experts
who were called "Captain" in the Cornish tradition. His father Thomas had been one of the first min-ing engineers to visit the California goldfields,
bringing a sectional stamp mill with him by land across the Isthmus of Panama in 1850 (Cathro, 2007). Thomas Sr. had four mining engineer brothers, William
Henry, Richard White, Reuben and Alfred. Other family members who pursued a mining career were TA's brother Forbes and three of his cousins. In fact, eight
members of his family were members of the American Institute of Mining Engineers (AIME) at one time.