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Louis Vésignié

Jean Paul Louis Vésignié, one of France's greatest mineral collectors, was born June 3, 1870, in La Ciotat, Bouches-du-Rhone, the son of the Director of the Imperial Bureau of Trade. He began collecting minerals at the age of eight, and was blessed with a remarkable memory. He entered the Polytechnic Institute in 1891, and after graduating he embarked upon a distinguished career in the military. His service during World War I earned him the Croix-de-Guerre and a succession of promotions culminating in the rank of full Colonel in 1926, after which he retired from the military. In 1923, while posted at Fontainbleau, he began attending regular meetings of the Mineralogical Society.

Vésignié devoted the major part of his personal fortune to the acquisition of high-quality mineral specimens. His collection ultimately became the finest in France, and one of the best in the world. Well represented by all chemical groups and particularly rich in rare species, it numbered over 40,000 specimens. Vésignié's intention was always that his collection would eventually enrich the French national inheritance by going to an important French museum. Consequently he never hesitated to pay a high price for an important specimen that he felt should be kept in France. He purchased the well-known meteorite collection of Dr. Latteux, and bought a huge slice of the Canyon Diablo meteorite from Dr. Boubée. He also maintained a very fine gemstone collection including a Siberian blue topaz (377 carats), a Madagascar morganite (250 carats), a superb alexandrite (100 carats) and numerous carved gemstones.

Vésignié was a life-long member of the Société française de Minéralogie (serving as President in 1932), held membership in numerous other French scientific societies, and was also a member of the Mineralogical Society of America (since 1922) and the London Mineralogical Society (since 1937). Although Vésignié did not publish much, he always made his collection available to researchers. At meertings of the French society he would always bring a briefcase full of interesting specimens to show. When he died on August 25, 1954, he bequeathed the finest part of his collection to the Sorbonne mineral museum and the Natural History Museum in Paris. The new mineral species vésigniéite was named in his honor in 1955.

LININGER, J. (1988) Portrait Gallery: Louis Vésignié. Matrix, 1 (4), 60-61.
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