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Volume 26, pages 161-166, 1941
A. N. WINCHELL, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.
About ten years ago the Council of the Mineralogical Society of America made plans to establish a medal in recognition of exceptionally distinguished work in the field of mineralogy. The first award of the Roebling Medal was made in December, 1937, to Professor Charles Palache, the recognized leader in the field of mineralogy in America. The second award was made the following year to Dr. Waldemar T. Schaller of the United States Geological Survey in appropriate recognition of his distinguished services to the Society and to the science of mineralogy.
This year the committee has wisely selected as the recipient of the honor a man who is not an American, thus emphasizing the fact that the medalist is chosen as a leader in mineralogy, not merely in America, but in all the world.
Leonard James Spencer was born in Worcester, England, in 1870. He obtained his education in science in a series of institutions, beginning in the Technical College at Bradford in Yorkshire, continuing at the Royal College of Science at Dublin, Ireland, the University of Cambridge, England, and the University of Munich, Germany. He won honors at Dublin and the Harkness University Scholarship at Cambridge.
He expected to become a geologist, but his first opportunity in science came in 1894 as an assistant in the Mineral Department of the British Museum, and that circumstance diverted his attention to mineralogy, although he had begun collecting ammonites and belemnites on the Yorkshire coast at the tender age of seven years!
He became a member of the Mineralogical Society of London in 1894, a member of the Council in November, 1899, and succeeded Professor A. H. Miers as Editor of the Mineralogical Magazine at the end of 1900. He is, therefore, just now completing forty years of service in that capacity and during that time he has edited thirteen volumes of the Journal. In January, 1920, he established Mineralogical Abstracts, of which seven volumes have now been published. It is a mere statement of fact to say that Mineralogical Abstracts has come to be recognized very generally as the best publication of its kind. It is now the chief source of prompt information regarding all publications in the field of mineralogy, and, as such, it is of fundamental importance in all research work in our science.
For forty-three years he has been publishing a list of new mineral names in each volume of the Mineralogical Magazine and the fifteenth list of this series has just made its appearance.
Dr. Spencer has written many scientific articles dealing with the characters of minerals; for example, he proved that binnite is only a synonym of tennantite, and he described accurately and gave names to eight new minerals. He has made elaborate and important studies of meteorites and tektites. A hydrous zinc phosphate from British Columbia has been named spencerite in his honor.
He made a skillful translation of two large volumes - one, R. Brauns' "Das Mineralreich," and the other, Max Bauer's "Edelsteinkunde." He has published two books of his own; the first one is "The World's Minerals," published in 1911, and the second is "A Key to Precious Stones," which appeared in 1936.
It is remarkable how widely his ability as an abstractor has been used. He has prepared abstracts in the field of mineralogical chemistry ever since 1895 for the Chemical Society of London. He was referee for the mineralogy volumes of the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature from 1900 to 1914. He was collaborateur for crystallography and mineralogy for the international "Tables annuelles de constantes et données numeriques" from 1911 to 1930. He prepared many articles on minerals for the eleventh to fourteenth editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and articles on economic minerals for Thorpe's Dictionary of Applied Chemistry.
He has received many honors, including an honorary degree from the National University of Ireland; the Geological Society of London awarded him the Wollaston Fund in 1902 and the Murchison Fund in 1937. He is an honorary life fellow of the German Mineralogical Society, and of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, which presented to him its Bolitho gold medal. lie has been a corresponding member of the Mineralogical Society of America since the first small group of such honorary members was selected in 1927. He was President of the Mineralogical Society of London from 1936 to 1939.
He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1925, and Commander in the Order of the British Empire in 1934. He is also a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, of the Chemical Society of London, and of the Royal Geographical Society.
It is a great pleasure to me that I am given the honor to announce the award of the Roebling medal of the Mineralogical Society of America to Dr. Leonard James Spencer and to present it to Mr. Harold E. Slaymaker, British Consul in Houston, Texas, for transmittal to the one we are glad to honor.
LEONARD JAMES SPENCER, RECIPIENT OF THE ROEBLING MEDAL OF THE MINERALOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA
The welcome news (first received through the British Foreign Office - a reliable source of information) that I had been selected for the award of the third Roebling Medal came to me as a great and very pleasant surprise on my seventieth birthday. This is indeed an honour that I deeply appreciate and I sincerely thank the Mineralogical Society of America for so signal an award. It is, I believe, the only medal in the whole world that can be awarded to a mineralogist. Although geological societies have a profusion of medals to bestow (personally I have two such medals), yours is the only mineralogical society that has instituted a medal. To be the third recipient, following the distinguished American mineralogists Professor Charles Palache and Dr. Waldemar T. Schaller, is a special gratification to one in a foreign country. Apart, however, from any personal satisfaction, it is a true indication of the international cooperation and good will that must and will prevail in all scientific work. That the first award outside the United States should come to Great Britain is a symbol of the close bond between our two English-speaking countries, and this will I am sure be much appreciated by British mineralogists.
My record, as I see it myself, scarcely seems to justify this award. I can only say that I have stuck at my job for a number of years; but having now been so rewarded I begin to feel that my efforts have not been altogether unsuccessful. The only way to become a mineralogist is to start when quite young collecting minerals for oneself in the field. At the age of seven my father gave me a geological hammer, partly perhaps with the idea that if superfluous energy was diverted to the breaking of rocks, other forms of destruction would be avoided. While still a schoolboy, I had formed a collection of some thousand specimens of fossils, minerals, and rocks, mostly from Yorkshire localities, all methodically numbered, labelled, and catalogued. My first serious study of the subject was under a charming old Irish professor, J. P. O'Reilly, at the Royal College of Science in Dublin. Three years there gave further scope for collecting. Then four years at Cambridge University where geology and mineralogy were my principal subjects. Just at the end of the Cambridge course there fortunately happened to be one of the infrequent vacancies in the scientific staff of the Mineral Department of the British Museum, and then was my chance to become a real mineralogist. After appointment in 1893, I was allowed leave for a few months for further study in crystallography under Professor Paul Groth at the University of Munich.
The British Museum offers wonderful and unique opportunities and a. serious student who is willing to work overtime at home can scarcely help but make good. The Museum was established in 1753 and it absorbed several old collections. To the accumulation of collections there is apparently no end, and in 1881 the Natural History Collections were crowded out from the main British Museum building at Bloomsbury and removed to a new building, the British Museum of Natural History at South Kensington. Since then there has been a steady growth year by year in the collections. Curatorial work and the preservation of records are the first duties, but there are ample opportunities for research work on the accumulations of material. I have myself made some original contributions to mineralogical literature, and there may be one or two papers that I now regret having published. But I have always avoided hasty publication, and in some cases have waited twenty years or more before publishing uncertain and incomplete results.
Since my retirement from the Museum in 1935 under the Civil Service age limit, I have fortunately been able to continue my work, mainly in connexion with the Mineralogical Magazine and Mineralogical Abstracts. As editor of the Magazine since 1900, I have had no hesitation in inviting authors to reconsider their papers and if necessary to rewrite and curtail them. In this I have, with very few exceptions, found authors most reasonable and grateful for assistance. Points most obvious to the author himself (sometimes even his own name in the title) are often omitted, to the confusion of the chance reader. Mineralogical Abstracts were started systematically in 1920 as a sequel to the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature which terminated in 1914. Attempts have been made to select for abstracting only those papers of real value and importance, rather than blindly including all and every paper; and the indexing has been taken seriously. With regard to my own work, I regret to say that lately I have rather forsaken pure mineralogy for meteorites and natural glasses; but I keep a sharp lookout in the literature for new minerals.
Comparisons are often odious, but I think that some comparison of the British Mineralogical Society and the Mineralogical Society of America may be useful and to the advantage of the latter. Your society is to be congratulated this year on its coming of age, having been founded in December 1919. It is a very virile and live society - and it has instituted a medal. Your membership and subscription list (numbering 1042 in 1939) is just about double that of the much older British Society (founded in February 1876), and each year you publish a fat volume full of valuable data, as against one volume in three years of the Mineralogical Magazine. By a strange coincidence this December sees the completion of the twenty-fifth volume of both the American Mineralogist and the Mineralogical Magazine. I am the proud possessor of complete bound sets of both of these periodicals. The American Mineralogist in twenty four and one-half years has filled up shelf space of very nearly one metre (99 cm.), while the Mineralogical Magazine in sixty-five years runs to only 90 cm. In addition, however, there are now seven volumes of Mineralogical Abstracts running to 29 cm.
As a recipient of the Roebling Medal, which was founded in memory of Colonel Washington Augustus Roebling (1837-1926), I recall with pleasure my visit in August 1924 to him and Mrs. Roebling at their home in Trenton, New Jersey. He was a most affable and generous old gentleman, then aged 87, and I was much impressed by his fine and well ordered collection of minerals. In addition to many fine show specimens, he had made a special effort to have represented in his collection every known variety of mineral - even mere names: It was remarkable how he knew and remembered every specimen; as a test I was invited to call for something quite obscure, which to his great joy and pride was immediately produced. Following my visit I had several interesting letters from him up to the time of his death. He was an excellent correspondent and wrote in a very small neat hand; he had no use for writing machines nor for automobiles.
Again I express to the Mineralogical Society of America my sincere thanks for the generous award of the highest recognition that it is able to bestow. I feel highly honoured. My only regret is that under present circumstances it will be quite impossible for me to attend the meeting of the society and receive the medal in person. I should have much liked to have repeated my previous pleasant and profitable visit to the United States. I am grateful to the British Foreign Office for instructing His Majesty's Consul (to whom also my thanks are due) at Houston, Texas, to receive the medal on my behalf.