About Albert Chapman

Albert Chapman was born in Mackay, Queensland in 1912.

Albert Chapman

Photography © Australian Museum

Albert's father was a sea captain and amateur naturalist, who often brought home natural history specimens such as sea shells and encouraged Albert to collect minerals. One of the first specimens in Albert's collection, gold in quartz, was given to him by his father. In the 1920s, aged 12, Albert collected rocks on the shores of the Parramatta River, Sydney, where he later lived, and became interested in the sparkling crystals they contained. He began to collect these specimens, some of which had been used in breakwaters and came from Prospect Quarry in western Sydney and others, like garnet gneiss from South America, which were ballast dumped from ships which anchored nearby. He later collected from the Prospect quarries, finding beautiful prehnite and other minerals.

Albert trained as a cabinet maker and carpenter, later establishing a building business in Sydney, however collecting and trading minerals was the 'hobby' that dominated his life. Being a perfectionist in his craft as well as his hobby, ensured that Albert's collection was very special indeed. The mines of Broken Hill, with their incredible variety of fine mineral specimens, also attracted him at an early stage, and many collecting trips were made underground through contacts with mine managers and miners, who became firm friends.

These specimens were not often seen overseas, so Albert was able to trade them with collectors and museums in Europe and America, to further build up his collection. These travels were often made with his wife Doreen, who is also a collector. Through his collecting, reading and travelling, he became a very knowledgeable amateur mineralogist and an authority on Australian minerals. This reputation earned him automatic entry to the great museums of the world, with whom he traded specimens.

Albert was a shrewd mineral trader and fine judge of mineral quality. He set high standards in the selection and collection of minerals and because of his efforts Australian mineral collecting became important on the world scene. Albert was a founding member of the Mineralogical Society of New South Wales and assisted Australian museums in acquiring important specimens. His advice on mineral specimens was sought after by professional and amateur alike. He was the first Australian mineral collector to visit the famous Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in the USA and became a regular, well-known and respected attendee, exhibitor and trader of minerals.

Through his dedication and passion for fine minerals, Albert assembled one of the top ten private mineral collections of the world. He still maintained a keen interest in minerals right up to his death, on 20 July 1996, aged 84.

Vale Albert Chapman
Australia's Greatest Mineral Collector
A Tribute by Sir Howard Smith
From The Mineral Collector


Ross Pogson , Collection Manager, Mineralogy
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