Started by an elite group of academics and businessmen bound together by an enthusiasm for geography and natural sciences, the National Geographic Society (NGS) marks its 130th anniversary this year, on January 13. What began well over a century ago as a small club promoting the diffusion of geographical knowledge is now one of the largest educational and scientific institutions in the world. To celebrate National Geographic’s birthday, let’s take a quick look at the history and evolution of the organization.
The National Geographic Society Timeline illustrates some of the important events and turning points in the long life of the institution, from the day it was born and the first issue of its namesake magazine to its 130th anniversary.
A major turning point in the history of the Society was when the famous Alexander Graham Bell took the helm of the organization in 1898. When he became president, the Society was in a difficult financial state, mainly because the National Geographic magazine could not provide a reliable revenue base.
Bell realized the publication – back then, resembling a stuffy academic journal – needed considerable changes to become more popular, as well as a full time-editor to implement those changes. Therefore, he hired Gilbert H. Grosvenor to be in charge of the magazine’s editorial policy, who mandated a more accessible style, brought captivating first-person narratives, and introduced photographs into the magazine. As a result, National Geographic’s membership grew from roughly 1,000 to 70,000 and continued to skyrocket, turning the Society into one of the world’s largest scientific organizations.
The National Geographic Society chronology was designed in PowerPoint with the help of Office Timeline, a light but powerful add-in that enables users to make beautiful, easy-to-follow timelines and Gantt charts with just a few clicks. To edit the chronology or import Excel data and instantly create your own, we recommend using the Plus version of the tool.
Download the National Geographic Society Timeline for PowerPoint here.