Benedict F. J. Hermann
Benedict Franz Johann Hermann, geologist and mineral dealer, was born in Marienhof in Ober Stiermark, Sankt Lambrecht, Austria, on March 14, 1755, the son of Phillip Hermann, a Styrian farmer (he was referred to by his Russian contemporaries as Ivan Filippovich Hermann). He attended the St. Egidi School in Murau, and served as a mining official in the salt mines of Aussee in 1772, in the service of Prince Joseph I of Schwarzenberg in Murau. He pursued independent study in mineralogy and metallurgy at the University of Graz, and worked in the iron mines of the Prince. In 1777 he was appointed by the Prince as Chief Accountant in Vienna, where he attended lectures in the natural sciences.
Feeling ignored by the Prince, he resigned his position in 1781 and undertook a study trip through Germany and Hungary, then planned to publish a study of smelting technology at Schwarzenberg, but was censored out of fear of industrial espionage. A new study trip took him from Poland to Russia, where he entered the service of Empress Catherine the Great, and undertook numerous information-gathering trips through the Urals and Siberia to inspect mines and carry out mineralogical and geological research.
Following several bouts of illness on these trips he begged to be relieved of his travel duties, and in 1796 took a position as professor of mineralogy at the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. In 1798 he became a member and official of the Imperial Mining College in St. Petersburg, and in 1799 was promoted to Inspector. In 1801 he was appointed State Councilor and Chief of Mining (corresponding to the rank of Major General, addressed as "your excellency"). He commanded a force of over 10,000 miners in the Ekaterinburg area.
In 1803 Hermann established in Ekaterinburg the first printing press in Siberia, and published many of his own works on mining in Russia (mostly in German). In 1806 he became a member of the Mining Consistorium of the Finance Ministry. He was a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (1797), as well as the academies and scientific societies in St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Berlin, Munich, Copenhagen, Göttingen, Prague and Moscow.
In the 1790s he offered specially assembled collections of specimens for sale. One published prospectus read:
"I offer to deliver to Friends of Mineralogy the most interesting rocks and minerals of the Uralian Erzgebirge, as making my home in the region gives me the greatest opportunity to travel to and transport specimens. I plan to classify these into a suite which will contain not less than 100 specimens, and the most instructive examples at that. The pieces are as fine as those offered in other similar collections. I will price such a suite at 35 rubles sent to St. Petersburg. Anyone who is at all acquainted with minerals in Russia, and who knows the difficulties and costs that must apply in traversing the vast expanse of Siberia to gather specimens to make this offer will certainly consider the price extremely low, and will be convinced that I expect to obtain no other benefit than the pleasure of providing an essential service to Friends of Mineralogy, regarding this science which is particularly so important for Russia. But to be secured due to the substantial advance costs, I cannot think differently than to promise this collection by subscription."
Hermann died January 19, 1815, in St. Petersburg, Russia.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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