The roots of our Society in 1786
Oliver Langefeld, 31.12.17
The Society of Mining Professors (SOMP) has its roots far back in the 18th century. The German name, “Sozietät der Bergbaukunde” makes this Society the successor to the first ever international professional scientific-technical Society, founded in 1786 at Schemnitz (Banska Stiavnica) in what is now Slovakia, with 154 members from 21 countries. The sciences developed and specialized already like all different mining industries in the 18th century, so it was hard to keep an overview on all knowledge that was already gathered for single persons. The exchange of knowledge and technology was limited due to missing ways of communication and the long distances to travel on the one side, on the other side knowledge wasn’t handed by to others regarding the fear of losing own advantages. But scientific travelling was in vogue in this ages.
Figure 1: Ignaz von Born.
After being appointed as mining council in Prague in 1770, it was now possible for Ignaz von Born to continue educational trips to several mine sites in different regions to connect his theoretical knowledge with all practical experience in the field of mining and metallurgy. He was member to several societies, for example in Stockholm and London and was able to connect himself to scientists and academics from all over the world. Starting in 1781, von Born began to work on the process of amalgamation in silver and gold mining. After intense research and investigation, he was finally able to present to the professional world a new, more efficient and more healthy technique in 1786 with a large scale demonstration facility in Glashuette near Schemnitz. Besides local audience, experts came from Great Britain, Scandinavia and even Mexico and Nicaragua. With the success of his demonstration, the participants decided on that unique day to found an international society with the name of “Societät der Bergbaukunde”. An organization committee of nine men (of whom one was von Born) of the participants at Glashuette started to write down invitation letters and a first statute. That invitation letter was supposed to be an invitation to participate and become member in that new society and was send to universities and other institutions related to mining all over the world. Members were supposed to publish their newest developments, failures and studies from their working fields. All gathered knowledge should have been collected at a central archive in Zellerfeld in the Harz mountains time by time. Important publications should have been published for free and all material should have been given to each member on demand. On that basis of publications and reports, “Bergbaukunde”, i.e. “Mining Engineering” 1 and 2, was published, which was supposed to remain the solely publication of the society.
Figure 2: "Bergbaukunde" - The cover of the original publication (1).
The history of the society was short. Different sources give an overview today, that out of different reasons one of the most respected projects of that time came to an end in 1791. On July 24th in 1791, Ignaz von Born died, the French members died during the French revolution and perhaps it was too early in times of political instability for a young society like that. Nevertheless, even as the society existed just a short time, the fact that a society like that was founded the first time ever in international science can be seen as a unique and special achievement. Also the society had members of honor, one of them was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Basically founded on the minds out of the age of the “Aufklaerung”, a fascinating scientific society that was stunningly modern was created. The society was able to tear down walls between nations as well as between former single fields of science and studies or at least to weaken them.
With our society today, “Society of Mining Professors / Societät der Bergbaukunde“ (SOMP), there is a follow-up organization, that is surprisingly similar to the old one. Even if “Bergbaukunde” or “Mining Engineering” changed in definition all over the years, the addition of “Societät” is still more than justified today, perhaps even as an appraisal to Ignaz von Born’s and his fellow campaigners’ legacy. Their international direction of the society was the key onto international networking that is common today in business and science.
For further information please look at refererence (2) which is also available here.
(1) Born, Ignaz von; Bergbaukunde, Leipzig 1789 -1790, Bibiliothek ETH-Zürich; www.e-rara.ch; Persistent Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.3931/e-rara-20276
(2) Langefeld, O.; About the History of the Society of Mining Professors / Societät der Bergbaukunde; Proceedings of the 24th Annual Meeting of SOMP, Milos 2013