Alexei Konev, the oldest scientist of Siberia, Doctor of Geology and Mineralogy, has been at the Institute of the Earth's Crust, RAS Siberian Branch, over 40 years. The author of over 170 scientific works, he has discovered new minerals; also, he heads the East Siberian Branch of the Russian Mineralogical Society Few, if any, can determine the presence of nepheline rocks and map geological massifs in a short time merely from the look of pebble. But Dr. Konev can.
Each mineral has its fate, says Alexei Konev. Like people, some minerals are born "for great deeds", while others linger in obscuring. For example, wollastonite has been known since the middle of the 19th century but it is only recently that it was found to be good for making special ceramics, glass wadding, and in electronics. Nepheline also remained in the shadow for a long time, though at present it well replaces bauxites during extraction of alumina.
Today there are about 3.5 thousand minerals discovered on the planet, and in 50 years, according to Alexei Konev, this figure will be doubled, as it has in the preceding 50 years. Personally he has discovered 6 new minerals, and materials for yet another 3 have been submitted to the International Commission for approval. And fifteen are under study Alexei Konev made his first find in 1969 on the shores of Lake Baikal. Later its artificial analogue was obtained-a beautiful transparent crystal fianite. It was highly assessed by jewelers, while the common run dubbed it an "artificial diamond". The second mineral has been registered in the catalogue under the Siberian name tazheranite-from the name of Tazheran steppes in the Baikal Region. It is also here that Alexei Konev first discovered azoproite (the name given in honor of the AZOPRO association that studied in-depth zones of the Earth's crust). True, this mineral has been found no good for commercial use-better to make an artificial stone-pure, without admixtures.
Two more new minerals have been named after Alexei Konev's colleagues, who greatly contributed to science. Thus tausonite and odintsovite have appeared (named after Academician Lev Tauson-founder of the Vinogradov Institute of Geo-chemistry, and M. Odintsov, one of the discoverers of Yakut diamonds, who headed the Irkutsk Scientific Center for many years). Anna Koneva, his daughter, when studying the mountain rocks of the Baikal island Oikhon, has discovered oikhonskovite. At present the International Commission is studying yet another of her discoveries-manganic pyroxene. Another daughter of his, Maria, has also found "her" mineral (it is called banalsite).
The story of one blue manufacturing stone is rather interesting. "We discovered it during field works at Murun deposit that is located on the border of the Irkutsk Region and Yakutia," has told us A. Konev. "Upon closer look, it proved to be quite new, yet unknown variety of amphibole. It represents a composite mineral- magnesio- strontium-potassium-richterite. We named it dianite- in memory of British princess Diana."
Alexei Konev hopes to discover no less than 15 new varieties and types of minerals. "My dream is to get to one deposit on the Vitim. We have chartered a not so expensive route of an expedition: by railway, then by boat, and then the last 100 km on foot through the mountains...," says the 72-year old scientist.
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