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National Geographic Day

The National Geographic Society was incorporated in Washington, D.C. on today's date in 1888, by a group of 33 scientists, scholars, businessmen, and explorers who had a passion for geography, science, and travel, and who believed Americans were taking more of an interest in the outside world at the time. Its founding goal was for "the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge." Today it is one of the largest and most inclusive organizations in the world.

Nine months after the society got its start, National Geographic Magazine—now named National Geographic—began being printed. The society's 165 charter members received it—at the time, one had to be a member of the society in order to receive the magazine. Almost unrecognizable compared to the National Geographic of today, the magazine was a scholarly journal and had few photographs.

Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the father-in-law of Alexander Graham Bell, was the first president of the National Geographic Society, and Bell succeeded him. The society was reinvigorated when Gilbert H. Grosvenor came in as the magazine's editor-in-chief in 1899. He made the magazine more accessible: the prose was simplified and became less technical, more first-person narratives were included, and photographs began being featured on a large scale. This led to the magazine's great popularity, with its circulation going from 1,000 to 2 million in only a few years. In the first decade of the twentieth century, membership of the society went from 1,400 to 74,000, and in another decade it reached 713,000 and kept climbing. Grosvenor eventually became president of the society, while still maintaining his role as editor-in-chief.

Throughout the years, revenue from society membership and magazine subscriptions has funded thousands of grants for exploration and research, including underwater exploration by Jacques Cousteau, Hiram Bingham's excavation of the Incan city Machu Picchu, and Jane Goodall's studies with chimpanzees. The society has documented exploration in outer space and in the deep undersea, and the discovery of ancient civilizations and remote cultures, sharing their findings with the world with the magazine.

Environmental literacy and conservation have been a focus of the society in the twenty-first century, but they have usually avoided delving into politics, for which they have sometimes been criticized. Not only does the National Geographic Society publish a magazine that is read by millions, but they also produce documentary and feature films, a television channel, books, music, games, and a website. On National Geographic Day, we celebrate an organization that has brought us so much about the world through its magazine and other mediums.

How to Observe National Geographic Day

Some ways you could celebrate the day include:

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