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Gustav Seligmann
(1849-1920)

Gustav Seligmann was a prominent banker, mineral collector and amateur crystallographer in Coblenz, Germany. Many specimens from his extensive mineral collection were photographically illustrated in Reinhard Braun's Das Mineral Reich (1903). The mineral seligmannite was named in his honor by Baumhauer in 1901. When Seligmann died in 1920, his close friend Viktor Goldschmidt wrote the following obituary for him (my translation) and published it in his journal, Beiträge zur Krystallographie und Mineralogie (vol. 2, p. 182-185):

"On June 28, 1920 a precious life ended suddenly and unexpectedly, without preceding illness. On this day death led Gustav Seligmann, gently and painlessly, from his distinguished position in our science into the kingdom of the shadows. On the same day his wife, with whom he had lived in fortunate marriage for nearly 50 years, followed him after a few hours. If it is certain that one must part from this life and leave one's loved ones, then we can only wish that all good people might depart in such a way, like Gustav Seligmann and his wife. They had two sons and two daughters, in addition to a flourishing crowd of grandchildren, who cheered the life of their grandparents up until their deaths.

"Gustav Seligmann [whose surname means "blessed man"] was born May 31, 1849 in Coblenz, Germany, the son of the Privy Councilor of Commerce Bernhard Seligmann and his wife (maiden name Rosenick). After completing High School in 1868 he studied in Berlin under Gustav Rose, until the war in 1871, when he was called to arms while at the university as a second lieutenant of the 9th Hussars. After the war he dedicated himself to commercial studies abroad, and in 1872 joined his father's banking house and was married in the same year to Marie Liebermann von Sonnenberg.

"While his father and uncles managed the company, Gustav dedicated himself to the study of mineralogy and in particular to crystallography, which he promoted in many ways. Few people in Germany other than professional scientists have ever conducted crystallographic work; but we have some excellent names, including Friedrich Hessenberg, Friedrich Scharff and Gustav Seligmann. All three substantially advanced crystallography through their valuable work, and all three had warm affection for the beauty of nature, which made them eager collectors. Seligmann loved each individual specimen in his collection and could cite the locality, the type of acquisition and its crystallographic significance. He understood not only how to acquire the best that could be found from mineral dealers, but also from the professional collectors, who pursued crystals in the mountains and in the ore pits in order to bring out the best.

"Seligmann studied the things he collected crystallographically and published his findings. We owe a number of important publications to him. To his disappointment, however, the measurements and publications eventually had to cease, when his business activity began to take all of his time because of the increasing age of his father and uncle. After their deaths he considered whether he should dedicate himself completely the crystallography, but he wanted to continue the important business, so as to support his sons in their study of Rheinish mining and metallurgical engineering. Nevertheless he always hoped to be able to retire one day, and hand over the business to his children so that he could work exclusively with crystals. Then came the war in 1914, imposing upon him new tasks in the interest of his country, and hardly was it over before death resulting from his rich effectiveness overtook him. It may probably be that the collapse of Germany, which rested heavily on his mind, accelerated the end.

"His crystallographic work is quite in the spirit of the school of his teacher Gustav Rose, characterized by the refinement of the observations and the precision of the measurements and crystal drawings. To this school belong: Rose, Websky, Descloizeaux, Kokscharov, Hessenberg, Vom Rath, and others. Seligmann may place himself with dignity beside them.

"That which he did not have time to work on, he readily passed along to specialized comrades for research. Many valuable studies and publications have been produced using Seligmann specimens. Mineralogists and mineral dealers from all countries worked on specimens while staying in his free guesthouse. A close friendship connected him with the senior member of our science, Paul von Groth. Also I myself was pleased to be permitted to operate for more than 40 years in his house and to enjoy his and his wife's hospitality.

"The inclinations of his wife went substantially to the side of the arts, for which in addition he had a rich and heartfelt understanding. His business was conducted, following old custom, in the house, and directly adjacent to the office was the room with the cabinets, which contained his crystallographic collections and books. There he withdrew himself in his free hours.

"The University of Bonn recognized Seligmann for his services to the science by presenting him with an honorary doctoral degree in 1911. That made him happier than the title of Privy Councilor of Commerce, which the state bestowed on him. His harmonious life was fulfilled by good fortune, outside and inside. His kind nature spread an atmosphere of sympathetic consideration and satisfaction around him. That quality expresses itself in his portrait. He rests in peace. His work will not be forgotten in the history of our science, nor will his good-natured and affectionate personality in the hearts of his friends."
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Gustav Seligmann
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