Rose, Gustav

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(b. Berlin, Germany, 18 March 1798; d. Berlin, 15 July 1873) mineralogy, crystallography.

Rose’s family had a strong tradition in science. His grandfather, Valentin Rose the elder, invented the low-melting alloy still known as Rose’s metal. Klaproth, a close friend of the family until his death in 1817, had earlier (1771–1780) been in charge of the family pharmacy before Gustav’s father, Valentin Rose the younger, an original contributor to the methodology of inorganic chemical analysis, came of age. When he was only seventeen, Gustav and his brothers fought in the campaign against Napoleon in 1815. The following year his apprenticeship at a mine in Silesia was interrupted by illness. He returned to Berlin, where he studied mineralogy under C. S. Weiss. His dissertation, De sphenis atque titanitae systematae crystallino, was presented at the University of Kiel in December 1820. In this work, the first monograph on crystal morphology of a mineral species based on accurate measurements with a reflecting goniometer, Rose established the identity of sphene and titanite.

Following his elder brother Heinrich, later professor of chemistry at Berlin, and Eilhard Mitscherlich, whose discovery of isomorphism, announced in 1819, had been supported by Rose’s accurate goniometric measurements, he then spent several years in Berzelius’ laboratory at Stockholm. Rose returned to Berlin in 1823 to become a Dozent under Weiss and extraordinary professor in 1826. He became ordentlicher professor in 1839, succeeded Weiss as director of the Mineralogy Museum in 1856, and remained active in these posts until his death.

In 1829 Rose, with C. G. Ehrenberg, was chosen to accompany Humboldt on a scientific journey commissioned by the czar to the Urals, the Altai, and the Caspian Sea. This took him as far as the frontier of China. Rose’s two-volume chronicle of the journey includes extensive observations on geology, mineralogy, and mineral resources of the regions traversed that were quoted widely and for a long time were the chief source of information on these matters.

Rose published about 125 papers, touching nearly all aspects of mineralogy known in his time. Much of his work was concerned with particular minerals or mineral groups. He discovered about fifteen new minerals, all still regarded as valid species, the most important being anorthite; and he also made significant contributions in many other fields. Through his meticulous goniometric measurements he contributed to the development of the concept of isomorphism, adding some important examples. With Riess (1843), in his only paper with a coauthor, he introduced the still-current terms “analogous pole” and “antilogous pole” in connection with the correlation of pyroelectric effects with morphology. He properly distinguished between positive and negative rhombohedrons in quartz and established its correct crystal class. Rose made important contributions to the study of meteorites, to the crystallography of the brittle metals and the noble metals, and to experimental petrology, repeating and extending James Hall’s experiments on marble. One of his last papers (1871) dealt with the relations between thermoelectricity and morphology in pyrite.

Rose’s Elemente der Krystallographie, in the first and second editions, represented the latest advances of the science at the time. Yet the first volume of the third edition, which was prepared by Alexander Sadebeck under Rose’s direction and appeared just after Rose’s death, shows practically no sign of the progress of the science in the thirty-five years following the appearance of the second edition. By contrast, Rose’s Mineralsystem (1852) was strictly modern and most influential. It put an end to the “natural classifications” that had been a hindrance to the progress of mineralogy and became a model for later classifications.

With a dozen others, among them Humboldt and Mitscherlich, Rose founded the Deutsche Geologische Gesellschaft in July 1848, just at the time that publication of the 1 : 100,000 geologic map of Silesia, by Rose and Beyrich, was begun. Rose was very active in the society, serving as secretary and later repeatedly as president. In 1852 he presented fifty thin sections of rocks at a meeting of the society, seven years before the appearance of Sorby’s classic paper, which usually is considered to mark the beginning of microscopic petrography.

Rose’s biographers all emphasize that he was exceptionally modest and gentle and enjoyed the lasting esteem of his colleagues and students. Among the more distinguished of the latter were the explorer Ferdinand von Richthofen, G. vom Rath, Paul von Groth, and his successor, C. F. M. Websky.


I. Original Works. A complete bibliography of Rose’s publications is in Poggendorff, II, 692–694; and III, 1141–1142. His first major book was Elemente der Krystallographie (Berlin, 1833), also in French trans. (Paris, 1834); 2nd ed. (1838); a nominal 3rd ed., Gustav Rose’s Elemente der Krystallographie, consists of 3 vols.: I (1873), by Alexander Sadebeck, Rose’s assistant during his last years, covers the same ground as the earlier eds.; II (1876), by Sadebeck, is entitled Angewandte Krystallographie; and III (1887), by C. F. M. Websky, is Berechnen der Krystalle. Other books are Mineralogisch-geognostiche Reise nach dem Ural, dem Altai und dem Kaspischen Meere, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1837–1842); and Das krystallochemische Mineralsystem (Leipzig, 1852).

Among his articles is “Ueber die Entdeckung der Isomorphic. Eine Ergänzung der Gedächtnissrede auf E. Mitscherlich,” in Zeitschrift der Deutschen geologischen Gesellschaft, 20 (1868), 621–630. Adverse comments led Rose to write this supplement to his memorial address for Mitscherlich (1864). Here he details his contribution to the discovery of isomorphism and, incidentally, gives a partial account of his early scientific career, especially his relations with Mitscherlich and the circumstances of his first meeting with Berzelius.

II. Secondary Literature. See C. Rammelsberg, “Zur Erinnerung an Gustav Rose,” in Zeitschrift der Deutschen geologischen Gesellschaft, 25 (1873), i–xix; and G. von Rath, “Gustav Rose, Nekrolog,“in Annalen der Physik, 150 (1873), 647–652, by Rose’s son-in-law.

A. Pabst