Thomas S. Warren Museum of Fluorescence Sterling Hill Mining Museum and Museum of Flurescence

Who was Thomas S. Warren?

by Richard C. Bostwick

Thomas Spencer Warren was born in 1903 and actively promoted the fluorescent mineral hobby until a month before his death in 2001, at age 98. Most collectors of fluorescent minerals know him as the founder of Ultra-Violet Products, Inc. (now UVP, Inc.), but few are aware of his powerful influence on our hobby, or the depth of his lifelong commitment.

Thomas Warren

To begin with, Tom originated the most important tool we have:  the mass-produced, handheld, portable ultraviolet (UV) lamp. He developed the M-12 battery-powered "Mineralight" lamp in the late 1930s for prospectors hunting scheelite; many of these were traded to Franklin and Sterling Hill miners and found their way into the mines in lunchboxes. Tom's initial interest may have been economic - luckily the uranium boom kept UVP going after 1945 - but like many collectors he also became obsessed with the beauty of minerals "under the lamp," and never lost an opportunity to promote them. He displayed minerals along with his UV lamps at hundreds of mining and mineral trade shows, and gave innumerable lectures and demonstrations; he also sponsored the first public exhibit of fluorescent minerals (at Knott's Berry Farm around 1940). By the 1950s UVP made not only portable and line-operated handlamps, but also powerful display lamps such as the S-68, still used in museums worldwide. The company also had the largest stock of fluorescent minerals ever assembled. Even after Tom stepped down as CEO of UVP in 1973, he continued to run the mineral business until 1984, and the last of its stock was not dispersed until around 1992.

During his fifty-plus years of involvement with fluorescent minerals, Tom promoted them in every way he could. In addition to exhibiting all over the country, including the early Franklin, New Jersey shows, he sponsored the early "bibles" for collectors:  Sterling Gleason's Ultraviolet Guide to Minerals and Bob Jones' Nature's Hidden Rainbows. More recently (1994) he personally published Ultraviolet Light and Fluorescent Minerals, with one of the four sections written by him. When the Fluorescent Mineral Society was founded by Don Newsome in 1971, Tom saw that early FMS activities were sponsored by UVP, and its print shop produced the early FMS journals and newsletters. In 1974 the FMS organized the first all-fluorescent-mineral show, and this too was held at Tom's factory in San Gabriel, California. UVP under Tom Warren even helped with Hoya Optics Company's development of the long-life shortwave filter, the most significant development in UV lamp technology in decades.

All this ignores the rest of his life. Tom Warren also raised three children, shepherded UVP into dozens of other scientific and commercial markets, and in short led a remarkably meaningful and active existence. However, for us he is truly the godfather of every collector of fluorescent minerals. Far more than anyone else's, his efforts, enthusiasm, and accomplishments determined the shape and scope of our hobby. Honoring him with a Museum of Fluorescence at Sterling Hill seems wholly appropriate.