The Founding Of The National Geographic Society

One of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world was founded on this date in 1888 when a group of 33 men formed the National Geographic Society. The members were a diverse group that consists of explorers, teachers, geographers, military officers, and all other walks of life. The men all had a common interest in scientific and geographical knowledge, as well as the discovery of foreign lands and cultures. They felt as the times were changing, Americans would become more curious about what was happening in the world around them.

In an effort to reach out to the layman, the society elected Gardiner Greene Hubbard who was not a scientist, nor geologist, but instead a lawyer and philanthropist. Roughly nine months after the group was formed, they published the first issue of the National Geographic magazine. However, it mainly consisted of very technical short stories and therefore it wasn’t popular with the public. Things changed drastically in 1899 when Gilbert H. Grosvenor took over as the editor and completely changed the format. The biggest addition was adding photographs and making the articles more general interest. In just a few short years he managed to increase readership from approximately 1000 to over 2 million. Today, National Geographic is considered to be the pioneer of many forms of landscape photography including natural-color photos of the North and South Poles. They also view themselves as the unofficial guardians of our planet’s natural resources and focuses on broadening its reach to educate the world population of the impact human beings have on Earth.

Early members of the society gather at Gardiner Greene Hubbard’s home
Photo: agreatblooming