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July-August 2016

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Willet R. Willis III, Micromounter and Ambassador of Colorado Mineralogy

A cornerstone of Colorado's mineral record are the collectors whose exploration, discoveries, and collections anchor our present-day knowledge. Early micromounters such as Lazard Cahn and Carroll Everett “Shorty” Withers helped establish this legacy not only by contributing their time and energy to impart their knowledge and skills to others, but also by leaving a significant heritage of micromineral archives.

Willet Ranney Willis III was cut from the same cloth. A chemistry schoolteacher by vocation, he played an important but little-known role in the evolution of Colorado's mineral community. His collection of microminerals and crystallography materials exemplify his contributions and those of other founding members of the discipline. From Transylvanian gold samples to early stereophotographs, Willis's collection evokes an era of scientific exploration characterized by extensive mineral microscopy and avocational collaboration. His collection, orphaned at the U.S. Air Force Academy, was recently donated to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where it is on display and available for study.

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