On This Day, September 22, 1888, National Geographic published its first issue.
Let’s get serious first, then the boobs. National Geographic, synonymous with breathtaking photographs and compelling stories, has been a window to the world since its inception in 1888. Started by 33 explorers and scientists, their goal was simple yet profound: “the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge.” The first issue was a scholarly text devoid of any illustrations. Still, the introduction of photographic illustrations truly set National Geographic apart.
The Society embarked on numerous expeditions, documenting unique cultures, unexplored terrains, and captivating wildlife. Over the years, National Geographic has evolved with technological advancements, embracing digital platforms and reaching millions worldwide. Today, it continues to inspire, educate, and amaze us by shedding light on the wonderful complexities of our planet.
Impact on Geography, History, and Culture
National Geographic’s influence extends far beyond the realm of stunning photography, making significant contributions to geography, history, and culture. In terms of geography, it has not only increased general awareness but also fueled groundbreaking scientific research. Funding over 13,000 research projects, it has aided in uncovering mysteries of the Earth and beyond.
In the field of history, National Geographic’s well-researched, in-depth articles have brought the past to life. Its features on ancient civilizations, archaeological discoveries, and historical events have enriched our understanding of humanity’s shared history and heritage.
Culturally, National Geographic has promoted diversity and inclusivity by documenting myriad cultures around the globe. It has given voice to indigenous cultures and marginalized communities, fostering global awareness and empathy. Through its captivating narratives and imagery, National Geographic has indelibly shaped our perception of the world and our place within it.
The Boobs (A Quick Note About My Discovery)
I think I was in 2nd grade when Kevin Stumpf (he sat in front of me) started to quietly giggle uncontrollably. Typically it’s not a big deal; his deskmate Adam ripped an incredibly long fart almost on the daily. I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t smell anything. Then he turned. Sitting in front of him was the new kid, Stevie Bascom. He was showing boobs. Not his (yes, he had them…oh, settle down), but boobs nonetheless. I thought, “What is this? That’s not the encyclopedia”. It was not; it was The National Geographic, and I had no idea. When Mr. Graves (teacher) turned to the chalkboard, he opened his desk, and there was a stack! He mouthed the words “RECESS”. It was on…like Donkey Kong!
After class, when that Bell rang, every boy in the know followed him down the hall and to the tire quads near the monkey bars. Yep, the new kid. Well played. He has the makings of a real Jim Jones.
I always knew what National Geographic was. At that time, it was a more boring version of Ranger Rick. The crowd standing around him was large. I opted to skip it, fake a tummy ache, and head to the library. I sat there and combed through as many issues as I could in the allotted 15 minutes I had left. Now, as I searched page by page, no boob. The bell soon rang, and those same kids would make their way back in, down the hall right past me, paging through a stack of mags. That’s when Stevie noticed me and started laughing.
When I got back to my desk, he passed me a note. It said, “Hey idiot, I got ’em all.” – Alright, back to being serious.
The Early Years
Founding and Initial Purpose
National Geographic was founded on January 27, 1888, by a group of eminent intellectuals that included Alexander Graham Bell. The Society was formed as a club for elite academics and wealthy patrons interested in travel. It was initially structured as a scientific and geographical society, with its purpose stated clearly in its charter: “for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge.”
The initial years of the Society were marked mainly by scientific discussions during club meetings. However, Bell, president from 1896 to 1904, recognized that the Society needed a broader audience and greater public interest to thrive. He advocated for more exploratory work and sought to popularize science and geography through captivating narratives and imagery. Thus began the transformation of the National Geographic magazine from a text-heavy academic journal into a visually stunning publication that brought science, geography, and exploration alive to the average reader.
Significant Achievements in the Early Years
National Geographic Society, from its fledgling years, began to leave a significant imprint in the realm of exploration and science. One of its earliest accomplishments was funding the Polar expedition of Robert E. Peary in 1890. Peary’s expedition, supported by National Geographic, made significant strides in Arctic exploration, with his team being one of the first to reach the North Pole in 1909.
In 1906, National Geographic funded an expedition to Alaska, which resulted in the discovery of Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest peak. This expedition not only put National Geographic on the map regarding sponsorships for exploration but also reinforced its commitment to enriching geographic knowledge.
Perhaps the most revolutionary achievement in its early years was the introduction of photojournalism. In 1905, the Society published its first photo essay about life in Tibet, breaking away from the text-heavy format. This was a game-changer, as it marked the beginning of National Geographic’s journey as an iconic visual storyteller. This feature still characterizes the magazine today.
By the end of its first two decades, the National Geographic Society had made significant strides in exploration, scientific research, and journalistic innovation, setting the foundation for its future endeavors.
Exploring the Unknown
Uncovering the New: Places, Species, and Phenomena
National Geographic’s thirst for exploration and discovery has led to the unveiling of numerous new places, species, and phenomena. Its expeditions have traversed the globe, journeying to the Earth’s most remote corners and uncovering hidden wonders.
In 1912, National Geographic sponsored Hiram Bingham’s expedition to Peru, which led to the rediscovery of the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. This monumental achievement not only shed light on a lost civilization but also captured the imagination of readers across the globe.
The Society’s commitment to exploration and discovery has not been confined to land alone. Under the sea, National Geographic funded Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his team in developing the diving saucer, an early submersible, which paved the way for deep-sea exploration. This has resulted in the discovering of countless marine species and underwater phenomena, enriching our understanding of the ocean’s biodiversity.
National Geographic has also been instrumental in the discovery of new species. For instance, the Society’s BioBlitz program has identified thousands of species, some previously unknown to science. This program, conducted in collaboration with parks, schools, and scientists, involves a rapid inventory of all species in a particular area, contributing significantly to our knowledge of biodiversity.
In space exploration, National Geographic has also made substantial contributions. Its collaboration with NASA on the Mars Rover project led to the discovery of the “blueberries” – small, iron-rich spheres on the surface of Mars, providing vital clues about the planet’s history.
Through its dedication to exploration and support for scientific research, National Geographic continues expanding our understanding of the world, unraveling new places, species, and phenomena that enrich our collective knowledge and ignite our curiosity.
Case Studies of Major Discoveries
Discovery of the Titanic
One of the most memorable discoveries backed by National Geographic was the location of the Titanic’s wreckage in 1985. The Society partnered with explorer Robert Ballard to undertake a mission that located the sunken ship, which had remained a mystery for over 70 years. The stunning photographs and narratives published in the National Geographic magazine brought the tragedy of the Titanic back to life, creating a significant cultural and historical impact.
The Afghan Girl
In photojournalism, the iconic portrait of the ‘Afghan Girl’ taken by Steve McCurry in 1984 stands as a testament to National Geographic’s ability to illuminate human stories. The image of the young girl with piercing green eyes brought global attention to the plight of Afghan refugees during the Soviet occupation. This image has since become one of the world’s most recognized and powerful photographs.
Exploration of the Mayan Civilization
National Geographic, in partnership with archaeologist Guillermo de Anda, has been pivotal in uncovering secrets of the ancient Mayan civilization. Among the many significant discoveries was the Sac Actun underwater cave system in Mexico, containing archaeological treasures that provide insight into the Mayan’s mysterious rituals and way of life.
Unveiling the Okavango Wilderness
In a quest to protect Africa’s wildest place, the Okavango Wilderness Project was launched by National Geographic, which led to the discovery of many new species. The project, which involves a 2200-mile journey across three countries, aims to secure a sustainable future for the region’s vast untouched wilderness.
Through these and many other initiatives, National Geographic continues to unravel the unknown, pushing boundaries of discovery and continuously enriching our collective understanding of the world. These case studies significantly contribute to its illustrious legacy of exploration and storytelling.
Throughout its illustrious history, National Geographic has played a pivotal role in inspiring and educating successive generations. Its vivid imagery, captivating narratives, and groundbreaking discoveries have stimulated the intellectual curiosity of millions around the globe, fostering a deeper understanding of our world and its diverse cultures, species, and environments.
National Geographic’s educational initiatives, such as the GeoBee and the National Geographic Kids magazine, have nurtured young minds, encouraged children to explore the world around them, and drove their interest in geography, science, and conservation. These initiatives have not only been informative but have also served to inspire the next generation of geographers, scientists, explorers, and conservationists.
The Society’s documentaries, films, and television programs have also had a profound impact, making complex scientific concepts accessible to a general audience and shedding light on pressing environmental and cultural issues. Series like “One Strange Rock” and “Planet or Plastic?” have challenged viewers to think differently about their relationship with nature and their role in environmental stewardship.
Moreover, National Geographic’s digital presence has extended its reach to a global audience. Its online articles, interactive maps, and educational resources are readily accessible, providing learners of all ages with the tools to explore and understand our world from their own homes.
By consistently pushing the boundaries of exploration and storytelling, National Geographic inspires awe and a sense of wonder, fostering a global community of lifelong learners passionate about understanding our world and playing a role in its preservation.
Impact on Photography and Documentary Filmmaking
National Geographic has significantly shaped the world of photography and documentary filmmaking, setting the bar for visual storytelling. The Society’s use of compelling imagery and high-quality photography has revolutionized how stories are told and perceived around the globe.
In the realm of photography, National Geographic’s photographers have consistently pushed the envelope, capturing the beauty and diversity of our world in all its complexity. Their work has taken us from the vast expanses of the Antarctic to the vibrant underwater ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef. These stunning visuals showcase the world’s beauty and diversity and promote awareness and understanding of differing cultures, fragile ecosystems, and pressing global issues.
National Geographic has played a pioneering role in documentary filmmaking, producing groundbreaking films and series that inform, educate, and inspire. These documents have covered a wide array of topics, from the wonders of our natural world to the complexities of our human societies. They bring to light critical environmental issues, unveiling the effects of climate change and highlighting the importance of conservation. Each film serves as an urgent call to action, encouraging viewers to play a part in preserving our shared planet for future generations.
In photography and filmmaking, National Geographic leverages the power of visuals to stimulate thought, inspire action, and evoke powerful emotions. Their commitment to visual storytelling continues to influence photographers and filmmakers globally, setting a high standard for creative and thought-provoking content. From iconic portraits that humanize distant cultures to documentaries exploring the frontiers of science and nature, National Geographic’s influence on photography and documentary filmmaking remains unparalleled.
National Geographic in the Digital Age
As we’ve transitioned into the digital era, National Geographic has seamlessly adapted, leveraging the power of digital platforms to expand its reach and augment its storytelling capabilities. Through their comprehensive website, they provide online articles, interactive maps, and multimedia content, broadening the scope of their educational resources. Their active presence on social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, allows for real-time engagement with a global audience, creating a dynamic, interactive space where followers can learn, share insights, and participate in discussions.
National Geographic’s mobile applications, such as the award-winning National Geographic app, offer personalized experiences, allowing users to delve deeper into their favorite topics anytime, anywhere. Moreover, they’ve pioneered virtual and augmented reality, creating immersive experiences that transporting users to different parts of the world, offering a unique perspective and fostering a profound understanding of various subjects.
By embracing digital transformation, National Geographic has maintained relevance in a fast-paced, evolving marketplace. They’ve continued to captivate audiences by enhancing their content with digital technologies, offering a more inclusive, engaging, and interactive learning experience.
The Future of National Geographic
As National Geographic steps into the future, it remains at the forefront of exploration, education, and storytelling. The Society has numerous upcoming projects and initiatives aimed at furthering its mission. One such initiative is the ‘Last Wild Places’ campaign, aimed at preserving the most pristine and biologically important places on Earth by 2030. This initiative will foster groundbreaking research, community engagement, and multimedia storytelling to inspire action for biodiversity conservation.
Meanwhile, in visual storytelling, National Geographic is set to introduce a new documentary series, ‘Protecting Paradise,’ focusing on the courageous individuals fighting on the front lines to protect and restore our planet’s precious ecosystems. The Society plans to expand its online learning platform in education, offering more resources for educators and learners worldwide. This includes launching interactive educational games, virtual reality experiences, and a global classroom program to connect students worldwide.
National Geographic is also eager to harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in future initiatives. They are developing a project utilizing AI to analyze and interpret data from their various exploration initiatives, aiding in discovering new insights about our planet. This commitment to future-focused projects and initiatives ensures that National Geographic will continue to inspire, educate, and illuminate, driving the next generation of explorers and conservationists.
Its role in exploration, education & conservation
National Geographic’s Role in exploration, education, and conservation is set to continue and thrive. In exploration, they will further extend their reach into the most hidden corners of the world, continually pushing the boundaries of the known and the unknown. They will continue to invest in innovative technology and cutting-edge research, fostering discoveries that advance our understanding of the planet.
In education, National Geographic will continue to leverage its vast resources to create engaging and informative content for learners of all ages. They will refine their online platforms to make education more accessible, interactive, and exciting, fostering a global community of lifelong learners passionate about our world.
In conservation, the Society will play an increasingly pivotal role. National Geographic’s ‘Last Wild Places’ campaign exemplifies their steadfast commitment to preserving our planet’s diverse ecosystems. They will amplify their efforts in biodiversity conservation and continue to raise awareness about climate change, advocating for sustainable practices that safeguard our planet’s future. As they venture into the future, National Geographic remains committed to inspiring people to care about the Earth, thus continuing their legacy in exploration, education, and conservation.
In conclusion, National Geographic’s journey is a testament to the power of storytelling in shaping our understanding and appreciation of the world around us. From its beginnings as a small group of explorers to its current status as a global leader in exploration, education, and conservation, National Geographic has harnessed the power of visuals, words, and digital platforms to create a more informed and engaged global community. Its legacy reminds us that our collective curiosity and desire to explore can lead to profound insights and inspire tangible action in preserving our planet. As we look towards the future, there is no doubt that National Geographic will continue to ignite curiosity, illuminate understanding, and inspire stewardship of our world.
As we reflect upon the remarkable journey of National Geographic, we invite you, dear readers, to play an active part in this ongoing adventure. There has never been a more crucial time to foster understanding, spark curiosity, and inspire stewardship of our incredible world. Want to join the ranks of the explorers, educators, and conservationists who make National Geographic’s work possible? Visit their website, dive into their immersive content, contribute to their conservation efforts, or share their stories in your communities. Each action, no matter how small, contributes to the larger mission of preserving our planet and expanding our understanding of it. After all, every one of us has a role to play in shaping the future of our world. Let’s explore, learn, and conserve together.
- “National Geographic Society – About.” National Geographic Society. Accessed March 7, 2022. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/about-us/
- “Last Wild Places.” National Geographic Society. Accessed March 7, 2022. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/last-wild-places/
- “Protecting Paradise Documentary Series.” National Geographic Channel. Accessed March 7, 2022. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/shows/protecting-paradise
- “National Geographic Education.” National Geographic Society. Accessed March 7, 2022. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/education/
- “AI and Machine Learning at National Geographic.” National Geographic Technology. Accessed March 7, 2022. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/technology/ai-machine-learning/
- “Climate Change and Conservation.” National Geographic Environment. Accessed March 7, 2022. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/environment/climate-change-conservation/