In 1852, a wealthy and public-spirited scientist by the name of William Wagner began giving lectures from his home in Philadelphia. The philosophy behind these lectures was simple: an understanding of science is valuable to each person in every trade, and should therefore be attainable to all who seek it. These lectures became the focus of Wagner's energy, and in 1855, the Wagner Free Institute of Science was formally incorporated. Following Wagner's death in 1885, the well-reputed biologist Joseph Leidy took over the museum and expanded its collections into a full-blown natural history museum. For over a century since, Wagner’s mission of free science education has been carried out by like-minded educators, researchers, and historians at the still-operating Wagner museum.
This website is a collection of edited transcriptions from some of William Wagner’s earliest lectures on the study of mineralogy, delivered during the 1850s and 1860s. His descriptions of minerals have been paired with images of the Wagner museum’s own mineral collection: many of these specimens are from the personal collection of Wagner himself.