Yes, that Herbert Hoover – former President of the United States. Along with his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, Herbert Hoover translated this historical work, written in the 16th Century, from its original Latin into English. “De Re Metallica” means “On the Nature of Minerals.” The book is the earliest known, comprehensive treatise on the properties of minerals, metals, the ore from which they come, and the techniques used to mine them.
Georgius (Georg) Agricola was born 500 years ago, in 1494, in Saxony. His real name was Georg Bauer, but following the custom of the time, it was Latinized to "Georgius Agricola" early in his youth. A contemporary of Copernicus, Martin Luther, Leonardo da Vinci, and Christopher Columbus, Agricola is regarded as the "father" of mineralogy.
Agricola wrote many books on natural history; however, his most well-known work, De Re Metallica, was published in 1556, one year after his death. This book, Agricola's magnum opus, describes in detail the mining methods, smelting and metallurgical processes, geology, mineralogy, and mining law of the day. It is comprised of twelve "books" which cover topics ranging from the philosophy of mining and the qualities of a good miner to the arts of exploration, mining, assaying, and smelting. The volume includes a very large number of wood-block prints which illustrate the concepts described in the book.
Twenty years in the writing, De Re Metallica remains today an important historical and scientific document, especially to geologists, mineralogists, and mining engineers. In the Hoovers' preface to the English edition of the book, he states, "we must emphasize that Agricola was infinitely clearer in his style than his contemporaries upon such subjects, or for that matter than his successors in almost any language for a couple of centuries."
But, of course, there is the question: Why, of all people, did the President of the United States translate, into English, a book on mining written in Latin? The answer is simple. Before becoming President, Herbert Clark Hoover was a mining engineer who understood the historical significance of De Re Metallica. San Diego Public Library Catalog