National Geographic : 1897 Oct
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE GEOGRAPHIC WORK OF THE U. S. COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY * By T. C. MENDENHALL, LL. D., Ph. D., etc., President of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and formerly Superintendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, Washington, D. C., AND OTTO H. TITTMANN, Assistant in Charge of the Office of the Survey While a relatively small part of the energies of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey has been devoted, since the creation of the Bureau in 1807, to geographic exploration, it is, perhaps, only just to say that in the character and amount of its precision work it is second to no similar organization in the world. From the very start the standard of work has been the highest attainable in the existing condition of the arts and sciences on which such work must depend, and often, not content with that condition, the Survey has made it its business to better it by orig inal investigations of the first class, leading to improvements in the instruments and methods of the highest importance. It thus became the principal and for many years almost the only bureau of the Government in which exact science was cultivated. In its outward activities it was essentially an organization for the prac tical application of science to the solution of certain problems and the issue of certain publications which were of the utmost value to commerce. The duties to be performed by it were to sound the depths of the ocean along the coasts of the United States, to define the shal lows which barred the ways of commerce, to delineate with great accuracy the shores and physical condition of the thousand har bors and estuaries with which a benign Providence has blessed our coasts, to investigate the tides and currents of the waters which bear their precious burden of human lives and property to and fro, and to study the mysterious variations and uncertain ties of the magnetic needle by which the course of the navigator was largely directed. *Read before the Geographical Section of the British Association for the Advance ment of Science, Toronto, August 23, 1897.