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John Winthrop
(1606-1676)

John Winthrop the Younger (1606-1676), colonial governor of Connecticut, was born at Groton Manor, Suffolk, England on February 12, 1606, the son of Margaret Tynesdale and John Winthrop the Elder. He is the earliest known mineral collector in the American colonies. He died in Groton, Connecticut on April 5, 1676.

The narrative of American mineral collecting on an individual basis in the 18th century continues with his grandson of the same name: John Winthrop, Jr., F.R.S., (born in Boston on August 26, 1681, the son of Mary Browne and Chief Justice Wait-Still Winthrop; died in England on August 1, 1747). Winthrop, Jr., like his grandfather, built up a large collection of natural history specimens, including minerals and ores. Before 1717 he is known to have sent specimens of New England minerals to the British geologist John Woodward (1665-1728); some of these are recorded in Woodward's A Catalogue of the Fossils of England (1728).

Upon his election to London's Royal Society in 1734, Winthrop Jr. donated to the Society a collection of over 600 mineral specimens, mostly from New England. The catalog that accompanied this collection survives, although the specimens themselves were later dispersed. Some were acquired by Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), and passed to the newly formed British Museum of Natural History with the rest of his collections in 1753. A sample of columbite which served in 1802 as the type specimen for the element columbium still survives.
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References:
WILSON, W.E. (1994) The history of mineral collecting 1530-1799. Mineralogical Record, 25 (6), 241 pp.
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