Mineral is named for Army contract-fraud investigator
January 5, 2007
Lots of things are named after military folks. There’s the Abrams tank, the USS Nimitz, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Lemanskiite — that’s right, Lemanskiite.
It’s not a weapon or a vehicle or a ship. Foes of freedom aren’t intimidated at the mention of its name. To try to use Lemanskiite as a weapon would be, well, Stone Age.
That’s because Lemanskiite is a mineral.
Named after Chet Lemanski, who investigates contract fraud for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command in New Jersey, Lemanskiite is one of the newest minerals known to man.
Most of the roughly 4,200 recognized minerals have been named after their standout characteristics, the places they are found or mineralogists and others who have made significant contributions to science.
“Of course, I’m not a professional mineralogist,” Lemanski said. “I’m a professional investigator, that’s what I am, and it’s kind of useful when you’re looking at minerals.”
As good as his investigation skills might be, they aren’t the reason a mineral was named after him.
The story of Lemanskiite goes back to the early 1960s, when the mineral’s namesake got hooked on rocks as a teen and later spent nearly a year as a hard rock miner before being drafted into the Army in 1966.
For nearly his entire Army career, Lemanski abandoned rock hounding. In 1984, three years before retiring from the Army, he dove back in.
Since then, he’s amassed a vast number of scientifically and historically important rocks and minerals as well as a collection of geologic writings that would, if stacked, rival the height of the Met Life Tower in New York City.
“It’s one of the most outstanding private collections in existence,” said Richard Hauck, president of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum in Ogdensburg, N.J. Hauck is the man after whom the mineral Hauckite is named, and one of Lemanski’s friends.
He remembers the teenage Lemanski selling rocks in Franklin, N.J., and said his friend is not just a “trophy collector.”
That means he isn’t just out to get showpiece specimens to wow his friends. He’s interested in all minerals. That’s sort of how Lemanski stumbled on Lemanskiite.
In 1998, he and one of his rock hound friends got their hands on some material from a gold mine in Chile and set about trying to figure out what it was. Even with his extensive library, Lemanski couldn’t nail it down.
As far as he could tell, he was looking at a mineral named Lavendulan, which had first been identified in the first half of the 19th century, but there were some problems. Different books had different descriptions for it.
“Basically, the conclusion I drew is, we’re probably looking at different minerals here,” Lemanski said. A friend of his sent samples of the mineral to the Czech Republic for analysis, and he was proved right.
The Czech scientists decided to name the mineral after Lemanski, who, even without a formal mineralogy background, served as president of the Franklin-Ogdensburg Mineralogical Society and as vice president of the Franklin Mineral Museum, where he is still a member of the board. He is also a manager for the Web’s most comprehensive mineral database, Mindat.org.
The name Lemanskiite was approved in 1999, but detailing the complex mineral’s attributes took nearly five years. Publishing the mineral’s particulars in April 2006 made the name official.
“I’ve risen to some heights that I never thought I would get to in having a mineral named after me,” Lemanski said.
Hauck, who admits Lemanski’s mineral is prettier than his, said, “It’s like so many things in life; the honor is just in having it named after you.”