National Geographic Society
Logo of the National Geographic Society
|Motto||"Inspire, illuminate, teach"|
|Formation||Gardiner Greene Hubbard, January 1888|
|John M. Fahey, Jr.|
|Board of Trustees|
The National Geographic Society (NGS), headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States of America, is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical conservation, and the study of world culture and history. The National Geographic Society’s logo is a yellow portrait frame – rectangular in shape – which appears on the margins surrounding the front covers of its magazines and as its television channel logo. It also has its own website that features extra content and worldwide events.
The National Geographic Society was founded in 1888 "to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge." The Society believes in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world, and its purpose is to inspire, illuminate and teach. National Geographic is governed by a board of trustees, whose 21 members include distinguished educators, business executives, former government officials and conservationists.
The organization sponsors and funds scientific research and exploration. The Society publishes an official journal, National Geographic, in English and nearly 40 local-language editions. It also publishes other magazines, books, school products, maps, and Web and film products in numerous languages and countries. Its Education Foundation gives grants to education organizations and individuals to improve geography education. Its Committee for Research and Exploration has awarded more than 11,000 grants for scientific research and exploration.
National Geographic's various media properties reach more than 700 million people monthly. National Geographic maintains a museum for the public in its Washington, D.C., headquarters. It has helped to sponsor popular traveling exhibits, such as an early 2010s "King Tut" exhibit featuring magnificent artifacts from the tomb of the young Egyptian Pharaoh; "The Cultural Treasures of Afghanistan" which opened in May 2008 and traveled to other cities for 18 months; and an exhibition of China's Terracotta Warriors in its Washington headquarters in 2009–10.
National Geographic has retail stores in Washington, D.C., London, Sydney, and Panama. The locations outside of the United States are operated by Worldwide Retail Store S.L., a Spanish holding company.
The National Geographic Society began as a club for an elite group of academics and wealthy patrons interested in travel. On January 13, 1888, 33 explorers and scientists gathered at the Cosmos Club, a private club then located on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., to organize "a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge." After preparing a constitution and a plan of organization, the National Geographic Society was incorporated two weeks later on January 27. Gardiner Greene Hubbard became its first president and his son-in-law, Alexander Graham Bell, succeeded him in 1897. In 1899, Bell's son-in-law Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor was named the first full-time editor of National Geographic magazine and served the organization for fifty-five years (until 1954), and members of the Grosvenor family have played important roles in the organization since.
Bell and Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor devised the successful marketing notion of Society membership and the first major use of photographs to tell stories in magazines. The current National Geographic Society president and CEO is Gary E. Knell. The chairman of the board of trustees is John Fahey. The editor in chief of National Geographic magazine is Susan Goldberg. Gilbert Melville Grosvenor, a former chairman of the Society board of trustees received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for his leadership in geography education. In 2004, the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., was one of the first buildings to receive a "Green" certification from Global Green USA. The National Geographic received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities in October 2006 in Oviedo, Spain.
There were 33 founders.
- Adolphus Washington Greely
- Alexander Graham Bell
- Almon Harris Thompson
- Arthur Powell Davis
- Charles J. Bell
- Clarence Dutton
- Cleveland Abbe
- Clinton Hart Merriam
- Edward Everett Hayden
- Frank Baker
- Gardiner Greene Hubbard
- George Brown Goode
- George Kennan
- George Wallace Melville
- Gilbert Thompson
- Grove Karl Gilbert
- Henry Gannett
- Henry Wetherbee Henshaw
- Henry Mitchell
- Herbert Gouverneur Ogden
- Israel Russell
- James Howard Gore
- James Clarke Welling
- John Russell Bartlett
- John Wesley Powell
- Marcus Baker
- Otto Hilgard Tittmann
- Robert Muldrow II
- Rogers Birnie
- Samuel Gannett
- Willard Drake Johnson
- William Bramwell Powell
- William Dall
- Winfield Scott Schley
National Geographic Magazine, later shortened to National Geographic, published its first issue in October 1888, nine months after the Society was founded, as the Society's official journal, a benefit for joining the tax-exempt National Geographic Society. Starting with the February 1910 (Vol XXI., No. 2) issue, the magazine began using its now famous trademarked yellow border around the edge of its covers.
There are 12 monthly issues of National Geographic per year. The magazine contains articles about geography, popular science, world history, culture, current events and photography of places and things all over the world and universe. National Geographic magazine is currently published in 40 local-language editions in many countries around the world. Combined English and other language circulation is around 6.8 million monthly, with some 60 million readers.
In addition to its flagship magazine, the Society publishes several other periodicals:
- National Geographic Traveler: launched in 1984. There are 18 local-language editions of NG Traveler.
- National Geographic Explorer: Classroom magazine. The National Geographic School Bulletin was launched in 1919. It became National Geographic World, which developed into a children's magazine, in 1975, and was separated into the current National Geographic Explorer and National Geographic Kids (see below) in 2001. It has four separate editions for different grades and has grown to about 2½ million circulation.
- National Geographic Kids: A version of National Geographic Magazine for children, launched in 2001 (see above). It has a U.S. circulation of over 1.5 million. There are also currently 18 local-language editions of NG Kids, with another half million in circulation. An Arabic edition of the children's magazine was launched in Egypt in early 2007, and more than 42,000 copies are distributed to all the public schools in Egypt, in addition to another 15,000 single copy sales. More recently, an Albanian and Polish edition were launched.
- National Geographic Little Kids: for younger children aged 3–6
- National Geographic History, launched in 2015.
The Society also runs an online news outlet called National Geographic Daily News.
The Society also publishes maps, atlases and books. It previously published and co-published other magazines, including National Geographic Adventure, National Geographic Research (a scientific journal), and others, and continues to publish special issues of various magazines.
Programs by the National Geographic Society are also broadcast on television. National Geographic television specials as well as television series have been aired on PBS and other networks in the United States and globally for many years. The Geographic series in the U.S. started on CBS in 1964, moved to ABC in 1973, shifted to PBS (produced by WQED, Pittsburgh) in 1975, shifted to TBS in 1995, and returned to PBS in 2000. National Geographic Channel, launched in January 2001, is a joint venture of National Geographic and Fox Cable Networks. It has featured stories on numerous scientific figures such as Louis Leakey, Jacques Cousteau, or Jane Goodall that not only featured their work but helped make them world-famous and accessible to millions. A majority of the specials were narrated by various actors, including Glenn Close, Linda Hunt, Stacy Keach, Richard Kiley, Burgess Meredith, Susan Sarandon, Alexander Scourby, Martin Sheen and Peter Strauss. The specials' theme music, by Elmer Bernstein, was also adopted by the National Geographic Channel. The National Geographic Channel has begun to launch a number of subbranded channels in international markets, such as Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo Adventure, and Nat Geo Music.
National Geographic Films, a wholly owned taxable subsidiary of the National Geographic Society, has also produced a feature film based on the diary of a Russian submarine commander starring Harrison Ford in K-19: The Widowmaker, and most recently retooling a French-made documentary for U.S. distribution with a new score and script narrated by Morgan Freeman called March of the Penguins, which received an Academy Award for the Best Documentary in 2006. After a record $77 million theatrical gross in the United States, over four million DVD copies of March of the Penguins have been sold. National Geographic Films launched a new feature film in July 2007 called Arctic Tale, featuring the story of two families of walrus and polar bears. Queen Latifah is the narrator of this film. Inspired by a National Geographic Magazine article, National Geographic opened a 3-D large format and Reality 3-D film called Sea Monsters, with a musical score by Peter Gabriel, in October of that year. National Geographic Films is co-producing with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt the 10-hour mini series of Steven Ambrose's award-winning Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West for HBO. In 2013, the network began airing the reality show Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?.
National Geographic Museum
The Society operates the National Geographic Museum, located at 1145 17th Street, NW (17th and M), in Washington, D.C. The museum features changing photography exhibitions featuring the work of National Geographic explorers, photographers, and scientists. There are also changing exhibits related to natural history, culture, history or society.
Support for research and projects
The Society has helped sponsor many expeditions and research projects over the years, including:
- Codex Tchacos – Conservation and translation of the only known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas
- Ian Baker – Discovers hidden waterfall of the Tsangpo Gorge, Tibet
- Robert Ballard – RMS Titanic (1985) and John F. Kennedy's PT-109 (2002) discovery
- Robert Bartlett – Arctic Exploration (1925–45)
- George Bass – Underwater archaeology – Bronze Age trade
- Lee Berger – Oldest footprints of modern humans ever found
- Hiram Bingham – Machu Picchu Excavation (1915)
- Richard E. Byrd – First flight over South Pole (1929)
- Jacques-Yves Cousteau – Undersea exploration
- Mike Fay – MegaTransect (1999) and MegaFlyover (2004) in Africa
- Dian Fossey – Mountain gorillas
- Birute Galdikas – Orangutans
- Jane Goodall – Chimpanzees
- Robert F. Griggs – Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes (1916)
- Heather Halstead – World Circumnavigations of Reach the World
- Louis and Mary Leakey – Discovery of manlike Zinjanthropus, more than 1.75 million years old
- Gustavus McLeod – First flight to the North Pole in an open-air cockpit aircraft
- Robert Peary and Matthew Henson – North Pole Expedition (1905)
- Israel Russell Ascent of Mount St Elias on the Alaska-Canada border, 1890
- Paul Sereno – Dinosaurs
- Will Steger – Polar Exploration & First Explorer-in-Residence 1996
- Spencer Wells – The Genographic Project
- Xu Xing – Discovery of fossil dinosaurs in China that have distinct feathers
The Society supports many socially based projects including AINA, a Kabul-based organization dedicated to developing an independent Afghan media, which was founded by one of the Society's most famous photographers, Reza.
The Society also organizes the National Geographic Bee, an annual geographic contest for U.S. fourth- through eighth-graders. About 4 million students a year begin the geography competition locally, which culminates in a national competition of the winners of each state each May in Washington, D.C. Journalist Soledad O'Brien is the moderator of the Bee. She succeeded Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy!, who moderated the final round of the competition for 25 years, from its inception in 1989 to 2013. Every two years, the Society conducts an international geography competition of competing teams from all over the world. The most recent was held in St. Petersburg, Russia, in July 2013, and had representatives from 19 national teams. The team from the United States emerged as the winner, with teams from Canada and India in second and third place.
The Hubbard Medal is awarded by the National Geographic Society for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research. The medal is named for Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the first National Geographic Society president. The Hubbard Medal has been presented 35 times as of 2010, the most recent award going to Don Walsh.
Alexander Graham Bell Medal
The National Geographic Society also awards, rarely, the Alexander Graham Bell Medal, for exceptional contributions to geographic research. The award is named after Alexander Graham Bell, scientist, inventor and the second president of the NGS. Up to mid-2011, the medal has been twice presented:
- American Geographical Society
- Genographic Project
- Maps of the United States
- National Geographic Bee
- Nicholas DeVore III
- Royal Canadian Geographical Society
- Royal Geographical Society
- "National Geographic Press Room: Fact Sheet". National Geographic Society. Retrieved August 28, 2009. Also note that, as of August 28, 2009 (and likely before), the official website title is "National Geographic – Inspiring People to Care About the Planet".
- "National Geographic Education Foundation". National Geographic Society.
- "National Geographic Society". U.S. Department of State.
- Site designed by Shannon Roberts (April 24, 2007). "National Geographic CEO Says Nonprofit's Mission is Bringing the World to Readers". Mccombs.utexas.edu. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
-  Archived May 14, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Global Green Archived June 26, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- "National Geographic founders". National Geographic Society. Retrieved 2014-01-09.
- "Daily Nature and Science News and Headlines | National Geographic News". News.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
- "Explorers' Bookmarks @". Nationalgeographic.com. 2002-10-17. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
- David Braun (July 13, 2010). "Nat Geo awards Alexander Graham Bell Medals to GIS pioneers". National Geographic Society. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
- "Bradford and Barbara Washburn, Climbers". National Geographic Society. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
- Poole, Robert M. (2004). Explorers House: National Geographic and the World it Made. New York: Penguin. ISBN 1-59420-032-7.
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