Crystallography

Crystallography  (krĭs ´tal-lŏg ´rȧ-fy̆).—The science of crystallization, teaching the system of forms among crystals, their structure, and their methods of formation.

Union of Mineralogy and Geometry

It is a peculiar characteristic of minerals, that while plants and animals differ in various regions of the earth, mineral matter of the same character may be discovered in any part of the world,—at the Equator or towards the Poles; at the summit of the loftiest mountains, and in works far beneath the level of the sea. The granite of Australia does not necessarily differ from that of the British islands; and ores of the same metals (the proper geological conditions prevailing) may be found of the same general character in all regions. Climate and geographical position have no influence on the composition of mineral substances.

This uniformity may, in some measure, have induced philosophers to seek its extension to the forms of crystallography. About 1760 (says Mr. Buckle, in his History of Civilization ), Romé de Lisle set the first example of studying crystals, according to a scheme so large as to include all the varieties of their primary forms, and to account for their irregularities and the apparent caprice with which they were arranged. In this investigation he was guided by the fundamental assumption, that what is called an irregularity is in truth perfectly regular, and that the operations of nature are invariable. Haüy applied this great idea to the almost innumerable forms in which minerals crystallise. He thus achieved a complete union between mineralogy and geometry; and, bringing the laws of space 26  to bear on the molecular arrangements of matter, he was able to penetrate into the intimate structure of crystals. By this means he proved that the secondary forms of all crystals are derived from their primary forms by a regular process of decrement; and that when a substance is passing from a liquid to a solid state, its particles cohere, according to a scheme which provides for every possible change, since it includes even those subsequent layers which alter the ordinary type of the crystal, by disturbing its natural symmetry. To ascertain that such violations of symmetry are susceptible of mathematical calculation, was to make a vast addition to our knowledge; and, by proving that even the most uncouth and singular forms are the natural results of their antecedents, Haüy laid the foundation of what may be called the pathology of the inorganic world. However paradoxical such a notion may appear, it is certain that symmetry is to crystals what health is to animals; so that an irregularity of shape in the first corresponds with an appearance of disease in the second.—See Hist. Civilization, vol. i.