Gregori Aminoff

Gregori Aminoff was born in Stockholm 1883 and died in 1947. He was elected member of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1933. His family is descended from a Russian officer who joined the Swedish army in 1612.

Gregori Aminoff had two careers – as an artist and as a scientist. While still a schoolboy he was interested in minerals and collected them. The famous Arctic explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, who was Professor of Mineralogy at the Museum of Natural History, gave him free access to the mineral collection there. In 1905, aged 22, Aminoff had already received a bachelor’s degree and published two minor papers.

It was then that he switched to painting, enrolling in a famous art school and joining ”The Young”, a group of young painters who were to become very well known. Aminoff was successful and painted in Paris, London and Italy. He studied for a period with Henri Matisse.

In 1914 when the First World War broke out his career as an artist ended. He resumed his scientific studies and gained his doctorate in 1918. In the same year he introduced X-ray crystallography in Sweden. He became Professor of Mineralogy at the Museum of Natural History in 1923.

In 1926 it was discovered that electrons could give diffraction patterns similar to those of X-rays, and in 1930 Aminoff introduced electron diffraction in Sweden. Questions regarding the symmetry of crystals were central for Aminoff and it has been said that here lay the connection between his artistic and his scientific careers. In the thirties he also described a large number of new minerals, especially from Långban’s mine in Värmland. One of these, aminoffite, was namned after him.

In 1950 in her will, his widow Birgit Broomé-Aminoff provided for the establishment of a fund, the Professor Gregori Aminoff Memorial Fund, to be administered by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. An annual prize, the Gregori Aminoff Prize, was to be awarded for theses published in the field of crystallography. It was to be possible for several prizewinners to share the prize.