The National Geographic Society was founded in 1888 by a group of elite scholars, explorers, and scientists. Today, National Geographic continues to pursue its mission "to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world's cultural, historical, and natural resources."

Photograph by Robert S. Oakes, National Geographic
  • On January 13, 1888, the National Geographic Society was founded. A group of scholars, explorers, and scientists met to discuss the organization of a society for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge. Two weeks later, on the afternoon of Friday, January 27, a certificate of incorporation was formally signed.

    The National Geographic Society has made many contributions to exploration, science, and conservation. These contributions include assisting in the establishment of the National Park Service, exploring and mapping vast areas of the world, discovering sunken and buried treasures, and restoring archaeological sites. Perhaps most importantly, National Geographic writers, photographers, and producers have brought the world to millions of people—fulfilling the founders’ vision of increasing the diffusion of geographic knowledge.

    For more information on the history of the National Geographic Society, click here.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    conservation Noun

    management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

    Encyclopedic Entry: conservation
    diffusion Noun

    the spread of people, ideas, technology and products.

    discover Verb

    to learn or understand something for the first time.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    explorer Noun

    person who studies unknown areas.

    geographic Adjective

    having to do with places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    mapping Noun

    making and using maps.

    National Geographic Society Noun

    (1888) organization whose mission is "Inspiring people to care about the planet."

    National Park Service Noun

    U.S. federal agency with the mission of caring "for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage."

    scientist Noun

    person who studies a specific type of knowledge using the scientific method.