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Wanted: information about the cultivated crystal collection

Highlights from the VU collections

Found in one of the many showcases of the Wis- en Natuurkunde building: a collection of 35 'synthetic crystals'. According to the accompanying note, the collection dates from around 1915-1920. The crystals would have been used for teaching mineralogy at VU Amsterdam. This was given from 1946 onwards, first by Professor Hooykaas and then by Professor Uytenbogaardt. But what does this collection actually mean?

Synthetic crystals are "grown" by man in a laboratory. They are homogeneous crystals, which hardly occur in nature. They have been used, for example, in the fields of optics and electrical engineering. Thanks to the information on the note, we know the chemical composition of the individual crystals (such as '(K₃Na)(SO₄)₂' or 'Sodium chloride'). The Earth Sciences department has helped the University Library translate these compositions into more accessible names, but much is still unknown.

Earth Sciences Education Collection
Why is this collection so special? It symbolises the many educational collections acquired by Earth and Life Sciences. Students have been working with it for decades. The collection also gives a picture of university education in the middle of the 20th century. Moreover, Reijer Hooykaas, (extraordinary) professor of the history of physics, and Willem Uytenbogaardt, mineralogist and namesake of the mineral Uytenbogaardtite, were leading VU professors.

Orphaned collections
How special these crystals are in the Netherlands or the world is unknown. The staff members who decorated the showcase have already retired. Who compiled the note and where the information came from is unknown. The collection therefore also symbolises the many orphaned collections that have been left behind somewhere and that no one knows the story about.

Do you know more?
Do you know more? Or do you want to help us find out more about the story behind these synthetic crystals, for example for a paper or internship? Please contact Liselotte Neervoort at