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EnsisheimWoodcut 300x146 Falls

Medieval Woodcut of meteorite *Ensisheim, 1492

I’m particularly interested in historical falls for several reasons. First of all, it took a while for the penny to drop amongst the intelligentsia that rocks really did fall from the sky. The main reason it finally did was the overpowering testimony of people the world over, mainly in the 18th and 19th century, who had observed just such events. These meteorites, then, have important significance for the history of science.

I also like the human stories and historical links around them. Ensisheim, the first European fall of which we still have material, landed in 1492 – the same year Columbus “discovered” the New World. Esterville fell in Iowa in 1879, the year of Einstein’s birth; Zvonkov fell in the Ukraine in 1955, the year he died. The Weston meteorite fell in Connecticut in 1807; Thomas Jefferson is reputed to have stated that he would “rather believe that 2 Yankee professors would lie, than that stones fall from heaven.” I’ve tried to give a flavour of this with historical notes beside each specimen.

Finally, from a purely practical point of view, there are limited (and dwindling) supplies of historic meteorites. This means that they are much more likely to hold their value than a recent fall, which may initially attract a lot of interest (and high prices), but which can be a poor investment when the 2 or 3 kilos first reported is joined by a couple hundred more.

Here are some of my historic falls. As I need a cut-off for the definition of ‘historic’ falls, I’ve completely arbitrarily picked Allende. We get a huge shower of carbonaceous material just before we land on the moon, and it’s close to the date I was born. From Allende onwards I class them as ‘modern’ falls.

Select a time range from the Meteorites/Falls menu above. Click on the images for larger photos.

Note that historical notes are drawn, in part, from Wikis and should be treated appropriately icon smile Falls

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