A Toast to Our Founders on the Occasion of the Society’s Quasquicentennial


From the top of Mount Everest to the depths of the sea, from the world beneath the microscope to the stars in distant galaxies, the National Geographic Society has reported on “the world and all that is in it” for 125 years. On January 13, 1888, thirty-three men attended a meeting to discuss the “advisability of organizing a society for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge,” and voted to set up such an organization.

During this period, Washington, D.C. saw a flurry of intellectual and scientific societies being established. In the decades after the Civil War, the government funded much scientific work and research, and the city had an especially active community of scientists and their supporters. Among this group was a strong belief that the advancement of the natural sciences would lead to the understanding, management and wise development of the country’s natural resources. Out of this group and their beliefs, the conservation and environmental movements would be born.

The thirty-three founders of the National Geographic Society were an adventurous and accomplished group. They included scientists, explorers, a journalist and a superintendent of the National Zoo. In recognition of the National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary this series takes a look at their stories.

Human Journey