Gerard Troost, early American mineral collector and one of the founders of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, was born in Bois-le-Duc, Netherlands, on March 5, 1776, the son of Anna Cornelia Van Heeck and Everhard Joseph Troost. He attended the universities of Leyden and Amsterdam, studying toward his medical degree but specializing in chemistry, geology and natural history. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree at Leyden, and also earned a Master's degree in pharmacy from the University of Amsterdam in 1801. He practiced medicine for a short time in Amsterdam and The Hague, then joined the Army, serving at first as a private soldier and later as an officer in the Medical Corp, during which time he was wounded in combat (in the thigh and head).
In 1807 Troost traveled to Paris to pursue his studies, under the patronage of the King of Holland, and became the student and associate of the Abbé René Jusy Haüy, the founder of modern crystallography and one of the most respected savants in France. Eventually he left Paris, armed with a new and deeper understanding of mineralogy, and traveled through France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland building up an excellent and valuable collection of minerals which he ultimately sold to his patron, Louis Napolen, King of Holland.
In 1809 Louis Napoleon sent Troost on a naval expedition to Java, as part of a scientific team, but he was captured by an English privateer and spent some time in confinement before returning to France. He then boarded an American ship in La Rochelle, with the intent of traveling to the East Indies via New York under American protection; unfortunately he was captured by a French privateer and held prisoner for a while before being returned once again to Paris. In 1810 he was elected a correspondent of the Natural History Museum in Paris and was allowed to embark once again on an American vessel headed for Philadelphia. The abdication of Louis Napoleon and the surrender of Java to the British decided him to remain in America thereafter.
Troost married Margaret Tage in Philadelphia in 1811, and together they had two children before Margaret died in 1819; Troost then married again, to Mary O'Riley, a widowed moher of two who proved to be a great help to him in his scientific work.
In 1812 Troost participated with five other men in the founding of the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia (for "gentlemen and friends of science") and became its firt president—an office he held for the next five years. The Academy was established strictly for the "cultivation of natural science," and any discussion of religion or politics was strictly forbidden. The members agreed to "contribut to the formation of a museum of natural history"; Troost was among the first to donate mineral specimens to the new institution, and delivered a course of lectures on mineralogy for Academy members.
Around 1816 Troost established the first alum works in the United States, but it lost money for him. In 1821 he was appointed Professor of Mineralogy at the Philadelphia Museum, where he delivered lectures on the subject. He also made regular field trips to collect specimens in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. In 1828 he was elected Professor of Chemistry, Geology and Mineralogy at the University of Nashville, a post he held until his death 22 years later. In 1831 he was also appointed State Geologist of Tennessee. He also established the Nashville Museum of Natural History, apparently as a place to display his vast personal collections. Charles Upham Shepard name the mineral troostite in his honor in 1832, but it was later discredited as a variety of willemite.
J. Berriend Lindsley, one of his students, wrote that Troost lived very frugally and sent large sums of money to Europe for the purchase of mineral specimen. He dealt regularly with Henry Heuland in London and August Krantz in Bonn, and purchased a collection from Baron von Turk in Potsdam for $1600. Troost also assembled a personal library of over 7,000 volumes.
Troost died in Nashville, Tennessee of cholera on August 14, 1850. In 1874 his collection of 14,000 mineral specimens, 5,000 rocks and a large number of shells and Indian artifacts was sold by his heirs to the Louisville, Kentucky Public Library for $20,000. Much of it survives today in the Louisville Science Center, although the Center has no Collections Department staff to curate or care for it.
Troost was much respected and honored in his time, for his scientific work, for his teaching, and for his "unaffected modesty, kindness and uniform courtesy toward all men."
GOLDSTEIN, A. (1984) Gerard Troost and his collection. Mineralogical Record, 15, 141-147.
YOUMANS, W. J. (1896) Pioneers of Science in America: Sketches of their Lives and Scientific Work. Appleton & Co., New York, p. 119-
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portrait in oil by
Charles Wilson Peale
from Youmans (1896)
||An original hand-written Troost label|