Benjamin Joseph "Ben" Chromy was born in New Prague, Minnesota on June 26, 1904, the son of Emily Mindrs and Joseph Chromy, a farmer and carpenter of Bohemian ancestry. The family was living in Collins, Minnesota in 1910 and Minnetonka, Minnesota in 1920. He attended High School in Hopkins, Minnesota, then studied electrical engineering in Milwaukee. In 1927 Ben moved to Washington, DC where he worked as an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office and listed himself as an "inventor" on the census. He subsequently obtained his doctorate in law at night school and then worked as a patent attorney with his partner, Philip H. Allen (as "Allen & Chromy"). He also made frequent visits to the Smithsonian Institution to admire the minerals on display there; his interest in minerals grew, and in 1942 he joined the Mineralogical Society of the District of Columbia.
During the war Ben work on aspects of the Manhattan Project at the University of California in Berkeley, where he acquired the micromount collection of a Butte geologist. He attained the rank of Major before leaving the service at the end of the war and returning to Washington, where he helped found the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical Societies (serving as its first secretary, and as president in 1954). He then took a position with a large textile firm, requiring frequent travel through the southern states; many field trips to mineral localities were thus made possible.
As a stimulus to the hobby, Ben donated the original micromounting trophy for presentation by the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies. He often gave lectures about micromounts to mineral clubs, and to major and local shows, illustrating the talks with his color slides. Ben was equally generous to his micromounter friends, to school groups and mineral clubs, and was especially happy to share specimens and knowledge with young collectors and beginners.
Ben wrote a regular column on micromounting (called "The Wee Ones") in Earth Science Magazine in the 1970s, and contributed numerous articles to various hobby publications including Lapidary Journal and Rocks & Minerals. As part of his micromounting activities he developed skill in photomicrography. He was a Life Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America and was elected to the Micromounters' Hall of Fame in 1982. He died in Saratoga, California on February 11, 1985. His collection of 3,000 micromounts and a substantial number of macro specimens was bequeathed to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, along with an additional bequest of $100,000.
Social Security Death Index.
California Death Index.
U.S. Federal Census 1910, 1920, 1930.
LEICHT, D. (1970) Ben Chromy. Mineralogical Record, 1, 115-116.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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