American Geographical Society

American Geographical Society

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The American Geographical Society (AGS) is an organization of professional geographer
Geographer
A geographer is a scholar whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society.Although geographers are historically known as people who make maps, map making is actually the field of study of cartography, a subset of geography...

s, founded in 1851 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. Most fellow
Fellow
A fellow in the broadest sense is someone who is an equal or a comrade. The term fellow is also used to describe a person, particularly by those in the upper social classes. It is most often used in an academic context: a fellow is often part of an elite group of learned people who are awarded...

s of the society are Americans
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, but among them have always been a significant number of fellows from around the world. The Society encourages activities that expand geographical knowledge, and presents and interprets that knowledge so that it can be understood and used not just by geographers but by others as well, especially policy makers. It is the oldest nationwide geographical organization in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Over the century and a half of its existence, the AGS has been especially interested in three regions: the Arctic, the Antarctic, and Latin America. A signature characteristic of the AGS-sponsored exploration was the requirement that its expeditions produce tangible scientific results.

History


The AGS was founded by 31 New Yorkers, who were wealthy philanthropists, historians, publishers and editors. Among them were George Folsom, Henry Grinnell
Henry Grinnell
Henry Grinnell was an American merchant and philanthropist.-Career:In 1818, Grinnell moved to New York City where he became a clerk in the commission house of H.D. & E.B. Sewell. He married Sarah Minturn in 1822. In 1825, Henry joined his brother Joseph Grinnell in Fish, Grinnell & Company...

, Henry Varnum Poor, Hiram Barney
Hiram Barney
Hiram Barney was Collector of the Port of New York from 1861 - 1864. He was born in Henderson, New York, Jefferson County, New York and graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, in 1834. Barney was...

, Alexander Isaac Cotheal, Henry Evelyn Pierrepont, S. De Witt Bloodgood, John Romeyn Brodhead
John Romeyn Brodhead
John Romeyn Brodhead was an American historical scholar.Brodhead was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jacob Brodhead , a prominent clergyman of the Dutch Reformed Church. He graduated at Rutgers College in 1831, and in 1835 was admitted to the bar in New York City...

, Joshua Leavitt and Archibald Russell. The founders held a joint interest in polar exploration, and readily organized the AGS upon the request of Lady Franklin
Jane Franklin
Jane, Lady Franklin was an early Tasmanian pioneer, traveller and second wife of the explorer John Franklin....

 to search for her husband and his voyagers lost in the Polar Franklin Expedition. In September 1851, the committee formed to draft a constitution. On October 9, this committee undertook the constitution at a meeting held in the Geographical and Statistical Library in New York City. The Society was not fully established until December 7, 1854, under a charter granted by legislator of the State of New York'

The Society was primarily named the ‘American Geographical and Statistical Society’; possibly due to the fact that the organizational meeting was held in New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

's ‘Geographical and Statistical Library’. In 1871, the AGS amended its Charter and dropped “and Statistical” from its title, thus becoming the ‘American Geographical Society’.

The Society’s first and most ambitious attempt to influence governmental policy was made early in 1862. On January 7, a special committee was appointed to devise a taxation system to correspond with the present state of public affairs. The committee prepared a report which was printed and distributed to members of the Society, members of Congress, and other public functionaries throughout the United States. The Society also began to integrate globally within the International Geographical Community, when the AGS sent a council member to attend the 1st International Geographical Congress.

During World War I, the interdisciplinary, government-sponsored "Inquiry" in preparation for the Paris Peace Conference
Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the Allied victors following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers following the armistices of 1918. It took place in Paris in 1919 and involved diplomats from more than 32 countries and nationalities...

 was led by the AGS and headquartered in the Society’s building in New York. After the Armistice
Armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

 in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 and the American Delegation sailed for France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. With them sailed AGS Director Isaiah Bowman
Isaiah Bowman
Isaiah Bowman, AB, Ph. D. was an American geographer...

 and three truckloads of geographical information compiled by Bowman and 150 geographers, historians, economists, statisticians, ethnographers, political scientists, and scholars of international law.

After World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the Society undertook an ambitious effort to map "Hispanic America" as part of the international effort to map the entire world at 1:1,000,000. The venture lasted from 1920 to 1945 and eventually produced 107 map sheets at a total cost of more than one-half million dollars, mostly in private donations .
During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Society assisted more than forty agencies of the U.S. government. Contributing ethnographic data to U.S. Military Intelligence in the efforts to defuse Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 strongholds in Eastern Europe.

The headquarters of the American Geographical Society were initially established at New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

 in Washington Square. The University’s chapel was used for some of the Society’s lectures and the AGS remained at this location until 1858. Later, two rooms located in Clinton Hall, formerly the Astor Opera House
Astor Opera House
__notoc__The Astor Opera House, also known as the Astor Place Opera House and later the Astor Place Theatre, was an opera house in Manhattan, New York City, located on Lafayette Street between Astor Place and East 8th Street...

, became the Society’s next home in December 1858. In 1866, the American Geographical Society moved to Cooper Union
Cooper Union
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, commonly referred to simply as Cooper Union, is a privately funded college in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, United States, located at Cooper Square and Astor Place...

 at Cooper Square on Ninth Street, where it remained for ten years. In 1911, the AGS moved to 3755 Broadway at 156th Street. This three story building was built on land donated by Archer Milton Huntington’s mother and designed by Charles Pratt Huntington
Charles Pratt Huntington
Charles Pratt Huntington was an American architect, born in Logansport, Indiana and educated at Harvard University, from which he graduated in 1893, and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, from which he graduated in 1901. He later moved to New York, where he designed Audubon Terrace and several of...

. Audubon Terrace
Audubon Terrace
Audubon Terrace, also known as Audubon Terrace Historic District, is a landmark complex of approximately eight early 20th century Beaux Arts buildings in New York City...

 became the Society's most prominent home and was visited by many scholars and dignitaries, including President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

.

After numerous relocations across New York City, the AGS is currently housed at 32 Court Street, Brooklyn.

Past presidents


The Society has possessed a diverse line of presidents, including a New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 Mayor and New York Times Editor. The first president was George Bancroft
George Bancroft
George Bancroft was an American historian and statesman who was prominent in promoting secondary education both in his home state and at the national level. During his tenure as U.S. Secretary of the Navy, he established the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1845...

, an American historian and statesman who was prominent in the promotion of secondary education and public policy.

The Society's presidents have included:
  1. George Bancroft
    George Bancroft
    George Bancroft was an American historian and statesman who was prominent in promoting secondary education both in his home state and at the national level. During his tenure as U.S. Secretary of the Navy, he established the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1845...

     (1852–1854)
  2. Francis L. Hawks
    Francis L. Hawks
    Dr. Francis Lister Hawks was an American priest of the Episcopal Church, and a politician in North Carolina....

     (1854–1861)
  3. Henry Grinnell
    Henry Grinnell
    Henry Grinnell was an American merchant and philanthropist.-Career:In 1818, Grinnell moved to New York City where he became a clerk in the commission house of H.D. & E.B. Sewell. He married Sarah Minturn in 1822. In 1825, Henry joined his brother Joseph Grinnell in Fish, Grinnell & Company...

     (1861–1864)
  4. Charles Patrick Daly
    Charles Patrick Daly
    Charles Patrick Daly was a member of the New York State Assembly, Chief Justice of the New York Court of Common Pleas, president of the American Geographical Society, and an author of several books.-Early years:...

     (1864–1899)
  5. Seth Low
    Seth Low
    Seth Low , born in Brooklyn, New York, was an American educator and political figure who served as mayor of Brooklyn, as President of Columbia University, as diplomatic representative of the United States, and as Mayor of New York City...

     (1900–1901)
  6. Robert Edwin Peary (1903–1907)
  7. Archer M. Huntington
    Archer M. Huntington
    Archer Milton Huntington was the son of Arabella Huntington and the stepson of railroad magnate and industrialist Collis P. Huntington...

     (1907–1911, Honorary President 1911-1916)
  8. John Greenough (1916–1925, Honorary President 1925-1934)
  9. John Huston Finley
    John Huston Finley
    John Huston Finley was Professor of Polities at Princeton University from 1900 to 1903, and President of the City College of New York from 1903 until 1913, when he was appointed Commissioner of Education of the State of New York...

     (1925–1934, Honorary President 1934-1940)
  10. Roland L. Redmond (1934–1947)
  11. Richard Upjohn Light
    Richard Upjohn Light
    Richard Upjohn Light was a U.S. neurosurgeon, aviator, cinematographer, and former president of the American Geographical Society.-Early life:...

     (1947-1950)


Other leaders
  • Dr. Isaiah Bowman
    Isaiah Bowman
    Isaiah Bowman, AB, Ph. D. was an American geographer...

     (Director 1915 to 1935)
  • John K. Wright (Director 1938-1949)

Publications


The AGS publishes a peer-reviewed, scholarly periodical devoted exclusively to geography titled Geographical Review
Geographical Review
The Geographical Review is an academic journal of the American Geographical Society. Currently published quarterly in January, April, July, and October. The periodicals are devoted exclusively to geography and contain original articles on all aspects of the discipline. The "Geographical Record"...


. The journal contains articles on all aspects of current topical and regional issues within geography. Additionally, the Society publishes a forty page, full-color journal titled Focus' in Geography, which includes articles on a variety of topics aimed towards a broader audience of students, teachers, administrators and parents. Focus is edited and written by academic and professional geographers and includes theme sections; maps and photos; and special country issues.
Ubique, the Society's thrice-yearly letter newsletter, serves as a vehicle for communication of Society news and events. Ubique is sent to all Fellows, Associates, Medalists, Geography Department Heads, and Galileo Circle Members.

The AGS also provides geographers to speak to the media on a variety of issues critical to human, environmental, political, and economic development. The AGS Writers Circle produces Commentary and Op Ed pieces about issues of importance to global society, such as geopolitics
Geopolitics
Geopolitics, from Greek Γη and Πολιτική in broad terms, is a theory that describes the relation between politics and territory whether on local or international scale....

, spatial technologies (e.g. Geographic Information Sciences (GIS) and Spatial Modeling), water management, global climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

, globalization
Globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

, urban growth and change, and social issues.

Expeditions


To contribute to geographical understanding, the AGS arranges an array of expeditions to various locations.

The expeditions the Society has been connected with fall into 3 categories:
  • expeditions organized and led by members of the Society’s staff
  • other expeditions in which members of the AGS staff took part
  • expeditions under the Society’s auspices or assisted by the institution in any other ways


Most notably:

A Transcontinental Excursion was arranged and executed by the AGS in 1912. The idea for this excursion was generated by Professor William Morris Davis
William Morris Davis
William Morris Davis was an American geographer, geologist, geomorphologist, and meteorologist, often called the "father of American geography"....

 who, in 1908 “tried the unique experiment of conducting a geographical excursion in Europe, open to students of European and American universities”. The excursion promoted the acquaintance of European geographers with Americans.

Currently, the AGS sends teams of scholars to improve U.S. understanding of foreign lands and peoples, in order to reduce international misunderstandings and improve humanitarian assistance in case of natural disasters, technological accidents, terrorist acts and war. The organization aims to build a multi-scale Geographic information system
Geographic Information System
A geographic information system, geographical information science, or geospatial information studies is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographically referenced data...

 (GIS) for each world region, collect unclassified GIS data, conduct participatory GIS, train a new caliber of regional experts, disseminate GIS data freely to the public and publish the results in popular media and scholarly journal. Each expedition is titled a Bowman Expedition, in honor of past AGS Director, Isaiah Bowman
Isaiah Bowman
Isaiah Bowman, AB, Ph. D. was an American geographer...

.

Others include:
  • Isaac Israel Hayes
    Isaac Israel Hayes
    Isaac Israel Hayes was an Arctic explorer and physician.Hayes was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania. After completing his medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Hayes signed on as ship's surgeon for an 1853-5 expedition led by Elisha Kent Kane to search for John Franklin...

    ’ Arctic Expedition to reach the North Pole
    North Pole
    The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

  • Robert Peary
    Robert Peary
    Robert Edwin Peary, Sr. was an American explorer who claimed to have been the first person, on April 6, 1909, to reach the geographic North Pole...

    's Polar Expeditions
  • The Powell Expedition
    Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869
    The Powell Geographic Expedition was a groundbreaking 19th century U.S. exploratory expedition of the American West, led by John Wesley Powell in 1869, that provided the first-ever thorough investigation of the Green and Colorado rivers, including the first known passage through the Grand Canyon...

     – exploration of the Grand Canyon
    Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona. It is largely contained within the Grand Canyon National Park, the 15th national park in the United States...


Archives


The AGS archive collection became the largest, privately maintained geographical research library and map collection in the Western Hemisphere. The archive contains field notes, original maps, sketches, photographs, journals, artifacts, correspondence, expedition flags and memorabilia, field equipment, telegrams, press clippings, event programs, radio logs, meeting records, and many other documents and artifacts. The AGS Library boasts a large collection of material from Latin American and the Polar Regions and contains over one-million items, some dating back to the 15th century. The Library including maps, atlases, books and library related archival materials were relocated to the
University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1978. In 2011 the AGS of NY and the AGS Library began a project to scan and create finding aids for the Society archives.

The AGS Travel Program


Since 1984, the AGS have organized a Travel Program, sponsoring in excess of 250 educational trips for the general public. The AGS Travel Program lecturers are professional geographers, Fellows of the Society and authorities on the regions traveled. Trips are conducted through various means of travel, including private jet and ship.

Fliers’ & Explorers’ Globe


The American Geographical Society acquired its Fliers’ & Explorers’ Globe in 1929 as a gift from AGS President John H. Finley. In his position as Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times, Finley invited early heroes of exploration and aviation to draw their routes and sign their names on his 18-inch globe. The Society has continued the custom and has created a symbol of humanity’s drive to explore the universe.

Signers of the Fliers’ & Explorers’ Globe over the years are men and women who have explored certain places on earth for the first time in recorded history, reached new extremes of height or depth, pioneered new means of travel, or set aviation records. Among them are such people as Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist.Lindbergh, a 25-year-old U.S...

, Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart
Amelia Mary Earhart was a noted American aviation pioneer and author. Earhart was the first woman to receive the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for becoming the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean...

, Sir Edmund Hillary, William Beebe
William Beebe
William Beebe, born Charles William Beebe was an American naturalist, ornithologist, marine biologist, entomologist, explorer, and author...

, and the Apollo 13
Apollo 13
Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the American Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 CST. The landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the service module upon which the Command...

 astronauts.

Signers of the Fliers’ & Explorers’ Globe are proposed by AGS’ Exploration Committee for approval by the AGS Honors Committee and confirmation by the AGS Council.

List of Fliers' & Explorers' Globe Signers

Medals and awards


The AGS presents a number of awards and medals:
  • Honorary Fellowships
  • The Alexander & Ilse Melamid Medal
  • Cullum Geographical Medal
    Cullum Geographical Medal
    The Cullum Geographical Medal is one of the oldest awards of the American Geographical Society. It was established in the will of Major General George Washington Cullum , the vice president of the Society, and is awarded "to those who distinguish themselves by geographical discoveries or in the...

  • Charles P. Daly Medal
    Charles P. Daly Medal
    The Charles P. Daly Medal is awarded to individuals by the American Geographical Society "for valuable or distinguished geographical services or labors." The medal was established in 1902. This medal was originally designed by Victor D. Brenner, but the destruction of the dies caused the medal to...

  • Samuel Finley Breese Morse Medal
    Samuel Finley Breese Morse Medal
    The Samuel Finely Breese Morse Medal was established in 1902. Designed by Laura G. Fraser, this medal is awarded by the American Geographical Society for "achievements and pioneering in geographical research."-History:...

  • David Livingstone Centenary Medal
    David Livingstone Centenary Medal
    The David Livingstone Centenary Medal was established in March 1913 by the Hispanic Society of America. The establishment commemorates the 100th anniversary of David Livingstone’s birth...

  • George Davidson Medal
    George Davidson Medal
    The George Davidson Medal is awarded by the American Geographical Society for the “exceptional achievement in research for exploration in the Pacific Ocean or the lands bordering therein.” In 1946, the American Geographical Society received a bequest of $5000 from his daughter Ellinor Campbell...

  • Osborn Maitland Miller Medal
    Osborn Maitland Miller Medal
    The Osborn Maitland Miller Cartographic Medal was established in 1968 by the American Geographical Society Council. The Osborn Maitland Miller Cartographic Medal honors "outstanding contributions in the field of cartography or geodesy".-History:...

  • Van Cleef Memorial Medal
    Van Cleef Memorial Medal
    The Van Cleef Memorial Medal was established in 1970 by Dr. Van Cleef, in honor and memory of his wife, Frieda. This medal, designed by Joseph DiLorenzo is awareded by the American Geographical Society to honor “scholars who have done outstanding original work in the field of urban geography,...

  • Paul P. Vouras Medal
    Paul P. Vouras Medal
    The Paul P. Vouras Medal is an award established in 1988 and given by the American Geographical Society for "outstanding work in regional geography." The award, designed by Hilary Lambert Hopper, was established by a gift from Dr. Vouras, Emeritus Professor of Geography at William Paterson...

  • Wrigley-Fairchild Prize

External links