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September-October 2010

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The Historical Mineral Collection of Philipp Franz von Siebold in Leiden, the Netherlands

Japanese mineral specimens collected during the first half of the nineteenth century are stored in the National Museum of Natural History (Naturalis) in Leiden, the Netherlands. A German medical doctor, Philipp Franz von Siebold, collected them while working in Japan for the Dutch East India Company. The specimens are unique in terms of modern Japanese mineralogy.

Von Siebold was born in Würzburg, Germany, in 1796 and studied medical science at the University of Würzburg. In his younger days, he was very interested in natural history and decided to go to Indonesia as a member of the Dutch East India Company to carry out investigations on the natural history of eastern Asia. When he arrived in Indonesia, the director of the company sent him to Japan for comprehensive studies of Japanese history, culture, geography, natural products, and so on, from the viewpoint of natural history.

Dr. Tokuhei Tagai is a professor emeritus of mineralogy and former curator in the University Museum at the University of Tokyo, Japan.

Akiko Kanaya Mikouchi was a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Teachers College, Columbia University at the time this article was written. She was living in Japan for her dissertational work.

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