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The Yale Peabody Museum’s meteorite collection in the Division of Meteorites and Planetary Science was begun by Benjamin Silliman in the early years of the 19th century with the fall of the Weston meteorite on December 14, 1807, not far from New Haven, Connecticut.

Some of the 30 or so meteorites acquired by Silliman over the next half century came in mineral collections. The Gibbs Collection contained several sizeable pieces of the Krasnojarsk pallasite as well as the largest unbroken specimen (36 pounds; 16 kilograms) of the Weston meteorite. The Red River meteorite is the largest acquired by Silliman, a 1,635-pound (742-kilogram) iron found in Texas in 1808.

About 25 meteorites in the Division’s collection are directly traceable to the efforts of Benjamin Silliman, Jr., who succeeded his father as Professor of Chemistry at Yale in the 1850s. It is certain that more passed through his hands, but documentation of these early acquisitions is scanty.

Named Curator in 1874, Edward S. Dana more than doubled the size of the meteorite collection in the next 46 years. Among his most significant acquisitions were:

  • Multiple specimens from the 3 great Iowa meteorite showers, Homestead (1875), Estherville (1879) and Forest City (1890).
  • A 65-pound (29.5-kilogram) stone (Jerome) found in Kansas by one of O.C. Marsh’s fossil hunters.
  • An 826-pound (375-kilogram) specimen of Canyon Diablo.
  • A large slice of Gibeon that shows boundaries of four grains of iron.
  • A 101-pound (54-kilogram) piece of the Brenham pallasite.

A collection of about 100 meteorites made by Yale mathematics professor Hubert A. Newton was the gift of his family after his death.

Although for much of the 20th century there was little interest in such collections, with the advent of the space age meteorites became prime source material for geochemists studying the history of the solar system. More than 200 meteorites and many impact-related objects have been added to the Division’s holdings during the current curatorship of the Peabody’s first Curator of Meteorites, geochemistry professor Karl K. Turekian, including the former meteorite collection of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, a gift in 1976. A special acquisition was Wethersfield (1982). Connecticut’s most recent meteorite, it was the gift of the owners of the house into which it fell — only a mile and a half away from a house hit by another meteorite just 11 years earlier.

For a published catalog of the collections in the Division of Meteorites and Planetary Science see Postilla 101, “The Meteorite and Tektite Collections of Yale University,” by Karl K. Turekian, 1966.

For significant specific holdings see:

  • Catalogue of Meteorites, with special references to those represented in the collection of the Natural History Museum, London, 5th ed., Monica M. Grady, London: Cambridge University Press, 2000
  • Handbook of Iron Meteorites, Their History, Distribution, Composition, and Structure, Vagn F. Buchwald, Berkeley: Published for the Center for Meteorite Studies, Arizona State University by the University of California Press, 1975

The Yale Peabody Museum’s collections are available to legitimate researchers for scholarly use. Loans are issued to responsible individuals at established institutions. Loans and access to the collection can be arranged through the Curator.

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