Andreas Arzruni was a geologist who had a remarkable international career at a time when it was not common to find Armenian names in this scientific field.
Andreas Arzruni was born on November 27, 1847. He was the younger brother of Grigor Artzruni, the future founder of Mshak, the groundbreaking Armenian daily published in Tiflis for almost four decades (1872-1921). He studied in the universities of St. Petersburg, Dorpat (nowadays Tartu), and Heidelberg. He graduated from Heidelberg in 1871 with a doctorate degree in chemistry. After living intermittently in Tiflis from 1871-1875, he continued his academic career in Europe.
Arzruni first taught at the Humboldt University of Berlin from 1877-1883, where he also was adjunct director of the Museum of Mineralogy of the University. After a one-year tenure as extraordinary professor at the University of Breslau (Wroclaw), from 1884-1898 he was professor, head of the chair of Mineralogy, and dean of the Polytechnic School of Aachen. After the death of his brother Grigor, he became the nominal publisher of Mshak from 1895-1898.
In the 1880s and 1890s, Arzruni organized a series of scientific expeditions to the Ural Mountains in Russia, the Caucasus, different European countries, as well as Chile, Guyana, Egypt, etcetera. He dedicated two important expeditions to the study of the geological structure and useful minerals of Armenia (1873-1875 and 1892). In 1894 he climbed to the top of Little Ararat and descended for the first time to the crater of the extinguished volcano. He rejected the theory of Humboldt and Abich that the Armenian volcanoes have a vertical orientation. He used geological factors to explain the oscillations in the level of the Lake Van, which was proven half a decade later. He also foresaw the future of Dilijan as a sanatorium.
Arzruni was the author of more than fifty papers published in scientific journals from 1871 onwards. His studies were related to geological chemistry, crystal chemistry, mineralogy, petrography, as well as economics, philosophy, ethnology, and literature. His book Physical Chemistry of Crystals (1893), in German, was later reprinted twice. He also participated in the sessions of the International Congress of Geology (1897) and co-authored the stratigraphic scheme of the Urals and the first geological maps of the Southern Urals.
He became corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Turin and the Academy of Sciences of Bavaria and St. Petersburg. He first described two minerals, groddeckite and utahite, and before his death he was investigating a new mineral from Chile, which was named arzrunite after him.
In the winter of 1895-1896, while on a visit of inspection to the gold fields of British Guyana, Andreas Arzruni had an attack of fever, and this, together with consumption, forced him to spend the last year or so of his life in sanatoria in Switzerland and on the Rhine. He passed away at the age of fifty-one in Hohenhonnef (Germany) on September 22, 1898. His bust was erected at the entrance of the Polytechnic School of Aachen.