Henri-Jean Schubnel, former curator of mineralogy at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris, was born in Nice, France on July 26, 1935. From an early age he was interested in music and gemology/mineralogy, competing in dance and singing from 1941 to 1956. He studied at the Music Conservatory in Nice from 1948 to 1958, and earned an apprenticeship in jewelry design at the Victor Duruy School. In 1955 he was awarded the Grand Prize for the most outstanding student in the Conservatory competitions; in 1956 he was awarded first prize for excellence at the organ; and in 1958 he helped to found the Nice Association of Friends of the Organ.
Turning his attention to his other love, he was made Brevet national de Gemmology in 1959, but this work was interrupted by 27 months of compulsory service in the French Armed Forces in Algeria. Following his discharge in 1962 he was hired as a mineralogist for the BRGM (French Bureau of Geological and Mining Research). In 1955 he became Director of the journal Gemmologie A.F.G. (and was still active as of 2013), and in 1968 he was appointed a French delegate to international gemology conferences.
In 1970 Schubnel was appointed Deputy Curator at the French National Museum of Natural History, and two years later earned his PhD in Natural Sciences from the Sorbonne (University of Paris VI, under Hubert Curien). He was then promoted to head of the Department of the Gallery of Mineralogy and Geology and curator of the mineralogical collections. In 1973 he also became a Scientific Advisor and Professor at the National Institute of Gemology.
In 1974, on a visit to Brazil, Schubnel came across a group of extremely large quartz crystals that he brought back to the Museum. In 1977 he was appointed a delegate of the French museums to the International Mineralogical Association (IMA), and from 1979 to 1983 he served as President of the French Association of Gemology. In 1984 he was elected a member of the Scientific Council of the Museum, and a year later became the Founding President of the French Society of Museologists of Natural History (a curators' group). In 1988 he was given the title of Professor of Mineralogy at the Museum.
More honors followed. In 1991 he was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and from 1994 to 1998 he served as Chairman of the Scientific Commission on Collections and Banks of the Museum and was a member of the Board of Directors.
Still making time for music, in 1997 he was a Founding Director of the Museum's Chamber Music Festival. That same year he won First Prize for Scientific and Technical Culture from the Ministry of National Education and Research (awarded by the Academy of Sciences). In 1998 he was invited to Prague by the President of the Czech Republic in order to study the precious stones in the Crown Jewels of the Kings of Bohemia.
In 2001 Schubnel received the very high honor of being made an Officer of the Legion of Honor. He retired in 2003, at the age of 68, and was presented with a Gold medal in his image in recognition of his 50 years spent in the scientific study of minerals and precious stones.
Schubnel is the author of numerous books including Color Treasury of Gems and Jewels (1971), Gems and Jewels, Uncut Stones and Objets d'Art (1972), Larousse Des Mineraux (1981), Minéraux Précieux (1987), Minéraux d'Europe (1996), Les Pierres Précieuses (1998), Giant Crystals and Precious Minerals (1987), and Mineral Treasures of the French National Museum (2002). Among his 80 published articles are “Les formes de la dioptase de Renéville” (1964), “La gersdorffite des Aït Ahmane, Maroc” (1968), “Etude de la zoisite bleue de Tanzanie” (1969), “Visite des mines de gemmes de Ratnapura, Sri Lanka” (1976), and “Les collections de mineralogie du MNHN” (1998).
In retirement, from 2002 to 2009, he has composed and performed concertos for violin and orchestra (in Nice); for flute and orchestra (in Finland); also for piano and orchestra, and he composed a symphonic poem (in Paris). He also performed in numerous chamber music concerts in France, Monaco, Japan, and the U.S. (in 2012).
See also: www.Hjschubnel.com
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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