The 4,000 known minerals can be separated into a small number of groups, or mineral classes. You may think, “Why bother?” Classiﬁcation schemes are useful because they help organize information and streamline discussion. Biologists, for example, classify animals into groups based on how they feed their young and on the architecture of their skeletons, and botanists classify plants according to the way they reproduce and by the shape of their leaves. In the case of minerals, a good means of classiﬁcation eluded researchers until it became possible to determine the chemical makeup of minerals. A Swedish chemist, Baron Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1779–1848), analyzed minerals and noted chemical similarities among many of them. Berzelius, along with his students, established that most minerals can be classiﬁed by specifying the principal anion (negative ion) or anionic group (negative molecule) within the mineral. We now take a look at principal mineral classes, focusing especially on silicates, the class that constitutes most of the rock in the Earth.