Albert H. Chapman
Albert Hector Chapman, Australia's greatest mineral collector, was born in Mackay, Queensland, Australia on January 20, 1912, the son of Annie Case and Capt. William James Chapman. At the age of ten he became interested in amygdaloidal minerals found in road gravel, and in the many odd rock types found among the ballast dumped by ships on the banks of the Parramatta River. When he was 12 his father further stimulated his interest by giving him two specimens of gold in quartz from the Eungella mine in Queensland, and later purchased a friend's collection of English fluorite, calcite and barite for Albert.
In 1927, at the age of 15, Albert purchased a collection from two retired Broken Hill miners for ten pounds, spurring his intense interest in that famous locality. He developed a fascination with the minerals of Broken Hill, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the deposit, its minerals and history. His extraordinary sub-collection of fine Broken Hill minerals (about a quarter of his whole collection and half of all his Australian specimens) included many great rarities. His contribution is noted in the book Minerals of Broken Hill (1982) by Howard Worner. His collection eventually encompassed many specimens that are the best surviving examples from many other Australian localities as well.
In the 1930s he and a collector friend (the only two in Sydney) collected zeolites at the Prospect quarry, enriching their own collections while also gathering trading material to exchange with curators at the Australian Museum and the Geological and Mining Museum in Sydney. Those curators (Tom Hodge-Smith, Oliver Chalmers and George Card) were his mentors, ever ready with guidance, encouragement and technical information.
Chapman's collection grew in size and quality throughout the succeeding decades. His training as a master carpenter, and his strong artistic bent, seemed to give him a connoisseur's appreciation of the beauty and sculptural quality of fine mineral specimens. At the same time he developed a sound working knowledge of mineralogy and a competent diagnostic ability, balancing his finely honed aesthetic sense with a solid scientific foundation.
Over the years Chapman ("Chappy," as his friends called him) maintained an extensive correspondence with major collectors and curators worldwide, carried out transactions with the leading museums, and traveled widely across Australia, America and Europe. He served as a guide, philosopher and friend to generations of Australian mineral collectors, sharing his knowledge, wisdom and friendship in a way that set standards for collecting and imparted intelligent aims which have significantly elevated the hobby in Australia.
Chapman's magnificent collection of Australian and worldwide minerals, among the finest private mineral collections in the world, consisted of about 1,000 specimens, hand-size or smaller. Roughly half are from Australian localities, and are models of perfection and aesthetics. It was purchased by the Government of New South Wales for $1 million and presented to The Earth Exchange Museum. When that museum closed in 1995, his collection was transferred to the Australian Museum where it is preserved today in the Albert Chapman Gallery.
Chapman married Doreen Cecelia Luhrmann (1917-2008) in 1940. He died peacefully at his home in Sydney, Australia on July 20, 1996, at the age of 84.
HENLEY, J. (1998) The Chapman Collection; a national treasure. Mineralogical Record, 19, 461-463.
STACEY, G. (1997) In memoriam: Albert Hector Chapman (1912-1996). Rocks & Minerals, 72, 267.
WILSON, W. E. (1996) Died, Albert H. Chapman, 84. Mineralogical Record, 27,
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||The entrance to the Chapman Collection gallery in the Australian Museum, Sydney (courtesy of Jean des Rivieres)|