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A Man Who Quit Medical School To Hunt For The Earth’s Treasures

Courtesy of Richard Berger
Richard Berger and an ancient, giant crystal from Namibia. The mineral is beleived to be more than half a billion years old.


In 1968, Richard Berger was in his 20s and in medical school in Philadelphia.  It was his lifelong calling to help people — to be a doctor. But, even though he was an honor student, medical school just wasn’t what he thought it would be.


“What I found was a lot of authoritarian behaviors and rote memorization. I went, ‘This is so not what I envisioned.’ Here I was with this dream of what my life is going to be about and it’s like crashing into a wall at 100 miles an hour,” Berger said, thinking back to that time.


Berger took a year off and went on road trip across the country.


“By the time I hit Wyoming, I see this dilapidated plywood sign peeling apart with dripping red letters from 'The Adam’s Family,' and it says 'rock shop,' remembers Berger. "I’m a kid from New Jersey, and for me, rocks are something you kick down the street when you have nothing else to do."


He walked into the shop and was immediately in awe of a tiny little crystal about one inch high.


For Berger, it was one of the most intriguing things he'd ever seen. "And while I thought I was running away form my future by leaving medical school," he says, "I ran right into it.”   

Over the last 48 years, Berger has crisscrossed the globe, hunting for rare and beautiful creations that come out of the ground: minerals, crystals and fossils. The private collection he’s pieced together is said to be one of the finest in the the world. He calls it “Masterpieces of the Earth”.

Berger's ultimate dream is to house the collection in a museum, so everyone can have access to what Berger says is Earth’s truth and beauty.

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.