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122 Candles


We’re extending the celebration of National Geographic’s birthday this year with the help of our friends at Wired.

Colleague Janelle Nanos recently shared the story of the birth of the Geographic on our Intelligent Travel blog. The date—January 13th—marked the 122nd anniversary of the night when 33 individuals gathered over brandy at Washington, D.C.’s Cosmos Club and agreed to establish this “geographic society.”

While our founders committed themselves to its creation that evening, National Geographic wasn’t incorporated until two weeks later—January 27, 1888. And now, we’re pleased to see more than a century of NatGeo innovation reviewed on Wired’s This Day in Tech blog. In the words of author Amy Ashcroft:

What began 122 years ago as a small, elite society for ‘the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge’ is now one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions. Today its mission has a broader theme: ‘to inspire people to care about the planet’….

National Geographic has been a constant pioneer of photojournalism and photographic technology. It was the first U.S. publisher to establish a color-photo lab in 1920, the first to publish underwater color photographs in 1927, the first to print an all-color issue in 1962, and the first to print a hologram in 1984….

Membership revenue has enabled funding for more than 9,000 grants for research and exploration. Some notable projects it has sponsored include Robert Peary’s expedition to the North Pole, Hiram Bingham’s excavation of the ancient Incan city Machu Picchu, Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s underwater exploration, Louis and Mary Leakey’s research on the history of human evolution in Africa, and Diane Fossey’s and Jane Goodall’s respective studies of gorillas and chimpanzees.

Along the way, the society opened up a vast world to armchair travelers. The society has documented exploration deep undersea and in outer space, and discovery of ancient civilizations and remote cultural frontiers. And at the turn of the millennium, the society began to increase awareness of environmental literacy and conservation.

The Geographic’s fieldwork continues to span the globe. Our network of explorers is probing new frontiers. We’re still doing all we can to push the limits of imaging and media, to share authentic stories of the world with the world. And when Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s brand-new iPad and surfed over to our sparkling new website


… well, that just made our day!

Top: The first meeting, January 13, 1888, as painted in 1962 by Stanley Meltzoff

Bottom: Photo via Engadget