AGS Time Line

1851 In September a committee formed to draft a Constitution. On October 9th, 1851, a meeting held in John Dursturnell’s Geographical and Statistical Library at 179 Broadway in New York City adopted the Constitution. At the founding of the Society, women were included as active members and participants because the Constitution stated under “membership” that, “any person of good standing and character may be admitted.”
1852 George Bancroft is the first president elected by the Society and serves until December 1854.
1857 Volume 2 of the Bulletin of the American Geographical and Statistical Society is published.
1863 Asa Whitney read the first paper presented before the Society in 1851. Mr. Whitney’s topic proposed a railroad to the Pacific, a project that he had been ardently advocating.
1864 In May, 1864, Judge Charles P. Daly is elected President and served until September, 1899. Judge Daly was described as “more than an interested amateur of geography [unlike most AGS Councilors].” He was an “able and productive geographer in his own right whose spirit of enquiry animated the Society.”
1871 On April 8th 1871, the Society amended its Charter and drops the “and Statistical” from its title, thus becoming the “American Geographical Society.”
1882 In 1882, the AGS established a Committee on Lectures. This committee system developed to meet needs as they arose, rather than planning in advance.
1886 In an Annual Report for 1886, it was announced by Mr. William Remsen (aninfluential AGS Councilor) that “a reasonable certainty exists that, when the library and the maps shall have outgrown their present accommodations, an ample fire-proofbuilding will be in the readiness to receive them.” Fourteen years passed before thisdream came true.
1891 Robert E. Peary lectures to the Society about his Polar travels.
1896 The Cullum Geographical Medal was designed by Lydia K. Emmet and was established in 1896. George W. Cullum willed to the Society the establishment of a medal given “to those who distinguish themselves by geographical discoveries or in the advancement of geographical science.” George W. Cullum was a Major General of the United States Army. During his career he was Superintendent of the U.S. MilitaryAcademy at West Point, where he graduated in 1833. He also served in the Corps of Engineers and published Register of The Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy. Cullum was Vice President of the Society from 1874 until his death on February 28, 1892.
1902 The Samuel Finely Breese Morse Medal was established in 1902. Designed by Laura G. Fraser, this medal recognizes achievements and pioneering in “geographical research.” Samuel Finley Breese Morse was a painter, but also noted inventor. After extensive travel in Europe, Morse invented the first recording telegraph, for which he submitted a patent application in 1837. His system of dots and dashes, equipped with adictionary and words, later was known as Morse Code. After his death on April 2, 1872, the Society was willed funds “for the encouragement of geographical research.”
The Charles P. Daly Medal is awarded to individuals “for valuable or distinguished geographical services or labors.” This medal was originally designed by Victor D.Brenner, but the destruction of the dies caused the medal to be redesigned in 1924 by Brenda Putnam. Charles P. Daly was President of the AGS from 1864 until September 19, 1899. However, during this time he rose to prominence in New York State as a Judgeon the Court of Common Pleas and became Chief Justice in 1871. In 1902, Daly’s willedfunds were used to establish this medal.
1903 Robert E. Peary became President of the AGS and served until January 1907.
1907 Archer M. Huntington elected President and served until April 1911. Huntington had been a Fellow of the AGS since 1893 and a Councilor since 1904. He was not only the Society’s outstanding financial benefactor but its most influential leader. By enablingthe Society to build its quarters in upper Manhattan, he provided it with facilities for enlarging its staff, collections, and activities.
1908 The Cullum Geographical Medal was given to William Morris Davis. Professor Davis was recognized as a foremost authority in the field of physiography and as anardent advocate of new methods of teaching geography all along the line from primary school to college. The American Geographical Society first published one of his articlesin the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society in 1904, and although Davis did notcontribute to the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society before 1904, his ideasand the ideas of those in essential agreement with him were clearly reflected in its pages.
1909 Francisco P. Moreno and Sir Ernest Shackleton were honored with the Cullum Geographical Medal.
Francisco P. Moreno (was a prominent explorer and academic in Argentina). He was known for his role in defending Argentine interests and his defining surveys leading tothe boundary treaty of 1881 between Chile and Argentina. These surveys and othersyielded Moreno a vast collection of archaeological and anthropological findings, forwhich he created a museum in Buenos Aires in 1877.
Shackleton was explorer who was one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. A special meeting of the Society was held at the Engineering building on Monday evening March 28 to welcome Sir Shackleton and present to him the Cullum Geographical Medal in honor of the great results of his Antarctic expedition of 1909.
1910 Herman Wagner received the Cullum Geographical Medal in 1910. Hermann Wagner was a German geographer and cartographer. In 1880, he became Professor of Geography at the University of Gottingen where he established the institute of geography.
1911 The Society moves to 3755 Broadway at 156th Street. The building was designed by Charles Pratt Huntington, while John Clark Udell served as the contractor. This three-story building was built on the land donated by Archer Milton Huntington’s mother. The building was originally designed with the first floor containing the Council Room, an office, a bulletin room, and an exhibition hall. On the second floor there was a receptionarea, with librarian and assistant librarian offices, a reading room and two editors’offices. The third floor contained the assistant editor office, the map room, the atlas room,the map curator, and two studies. All three floors possessed book stacks. As the evolutionand growth of the AGS progressed, the departments and their areas within the building changed. The Society remained at this location until 1981.
1912 A Transcontinental Excursion is arranged and executed by the AGS in 1912. The idea for this excursion was generated by Professor W.M. Davis who, in 1908 “tried the unique experiment of conducting a geographical excursion in Europe, open to students of European and American universities.” In February 1910 he submitted a plan and costestimate to the Council of the American Geographical Society and the Council referred the matter to Mr. Archer M Huntington. Davis considered setting up a committee of American geographers to organize the excursion, and also a committee of European geographers to nominate the foreign members. The Excursion would increase the knowledge of American geography by Europeans and it would promote the acquaintanceof European geographers with Americans. Huntington agreed to become the actual patronfor this project, financing the project on the basis that the excursion should be madeunder the name of the American Geographical Society and that it should be announced as “The Transcontinental Excursion of 1912” in celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the AGS.
1913 In March of 1913 The David Livingstone Centenary Medal was established by the Hispanic Society of America. The establishment commemorates the 100th anniversary of David Livingstone’s birth. Livingstone led the Zambezi Expedition from 1858 to 1864. He returned to Africa in 1868 to Zanzibar where he found Lake Victoria and the LualabaRiver. Designed by Gutzon Borgium, this medal is awarded by the American Geographical Society for “scientific achievements in the field of geography of the southern hemisphere.”
1914 The Cullum Geographical Medal was awarded to Sir John Scott Keltie and Ellen Churchill Semple.
Sir John Scott was a Scottish geographer, best known for his work with the Royal Geographic Society. He joined the Royal Geographic Society in 1883, and quickly became heavily involved in its activities. He was appointed the Royal Geographic Society’s Inspector of Geographical Education in 1884, and undertook a thorough reviewof the state of geography education in the UK.
Ellen Churchill Semple is most closely associated with work in anthrogeography and environmentalism. Semple had a prevailing interest in environmental determinism, atheory that the physical environment, rather than social conditions, determines culture however she is also associated with environmental influences as opposed to determinism.
1915 Isaiah Bowman is appointed the Director of the Society. Dr. Bowman was already favorably known to the Society, with several articles by him appearing in the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society. He was known as Professor W.M. Davis’s “righthand man” in the leading of the Transcontinental Excursion of 1912. The efficiency with which Bowman conducted this expedition and the harmony maintained with the AGSCouncil were influential factors leading to his selection as Director.
1917 George W. Goethals received the Cullum Geographical Medal in 1917. Goethals was a United States Army officer and a civil engineer, best known for his supervision ofthe construction and the opening of the Panama Canal.
1918 Frederick Haynes Newell was awarded the Cullum Geographical Medal. Newellwas famed for the construction of twenty-six projects, including reservoirs, canals andrelated works which were completed in whole or part -- notably the Roosevelt, Shoshone, Arrowrock, Gunnison Tunnel, irrigating canals and ditches with regulating works, bridges, steam and hydro-electric generators, transmission lines, pumps and devicesconnected with supplying water to 20,000 farms. Special efforts were made to attain the highest practicable economy and efficiency in the execution of the work and to meet theneed and desires of the settlers under them.
1919 Emmanel de Margerie and Henry Fairfield Osborn were each awarded the Cullum Geographical Medal. Margerie (1862–1953) was a French geographer after whom the Margerie Glacier was named, which he visited in 1913. Henry Fairfield Osborn an American geologist, paleontologist and eugenicist. Fairfield Osborn joined the U.S. Geological Survey in 1900 and became a senior vertebrate paleontologist in 1924. He ledmany fossil-hunting expeditions into the American Southwest.
During both World War I and World War II, the American Geographical Society rendered important services to the Government in connection with the military effort, andmore particularly in the preparation for the establishment of peace. Use was made of themap collections, and forces had been organized to gather and prepare data for use at theprospective peace conference. It was obvious that geography would play a large parttherein, and the headquarters of “The Inquiry” (as it came to be called) were set up at theSociety’s building. The personnel of The Inquiry numbered “some 150 geographers,historians, economists, statisticians, ethnologists and students of government and international law.”
1921 Albert I, Prince of Monaco was honored with the Cullum Geographical Medal. Albert showed his ingenuity by devising a number of techniques and instruments used formeasurement and exploration. Accompanied by some of the world's leading marinescientists, he recorded numerous oceanographic studies, maps, and charts. He then founded what would become the world renowned "Oceanographic Institute" in Monacothat included an aquarium, a museum, and a library plus research facilities in Paris. Healso discovered the Princess Alice Bank of the Azores in 1896 on an oceanographicsurvey of the area.
1922 Edward A. Reeves received the Cullum Geographical Medal. Reeves was knownfor giving courses of instruction in survey methods at the Royal Geographical Society.Mr. Reeves work had impressed Dr. Alexander Hamilton Rice, who concluded that similar instruction should be offered at the Society. Consequentially, Rice founded the School of Surveying at the AGS the following year.
1925 In January, John H. Finley was elected as President of the AGS and served until January 1934. Finley has strong geographical interests and he loved to get close to landand people on walks of prodigious length. He was assistant editor of the New York Times and later became Editor in Chief in 1937.
1926 The Cullum Geographical Medal was presented to Professor Lucien Gallois in Paris. The medal was presented in this location as Professor Gallois was unable to come to New York to receive it, hence the Society often arranged to have the presentation madeat an American Embassy.
Professor Gallois made major contributions to the Annales de géographie, a geographic journal and additionally, he assumed directorship of the Géographieuniverselle, a major project involving the regional geography of the whole world.
1928 Sir George Hubert Wilkins becomes the first recipient of the Samuel Finley Breese Morse Medal for using an airplane in “geographical research” – a means of transportation unknown in Morse’s day. The Samuel Finley Breese Morse Medal was established in 1902 with funds bequeathed to the Society by Professor Morse, inventor of the recording telegraph, upon his death in 1872. The medal is for “the encouragement of geographical research.”
1929 The American Geographical Society acquired the Fliers’ & Explorers’ Globe. The globe was a gift from the society’s President John H. Finley. At the time of the gift, John H. Finley was the assistant editor of the New York Times. Finley had already begun toinvite early pioneers of exploration and aviation to sign the globe as they drew theirroutes. The society continues this tradition today.
1931 The Cullum Geographical Medal was awarded to Mark Jefferson. Jefferson was amember of the Transcontinental Excursion and his career involved training geographyteachers. Isaiah Bowman (AGS Director) was taught by Jefferson in his early years, before he went to Harvard.
1932 Bertram Thomas was honored with the Cullum Geographical Medal. Thomas undertook anumber of expeditions into the desert, and became the first European to cross the Rub' AlKhali from 1930 and 1931.
1934 Roland L. Redmond is elected President and served until February 1947. Redmond had been a member of the AGS Council for 11 years.
1938 Louise Arner Boyd was awarded the Cullum Geographical Medal. Boyd was an American explorer of Greenland and the Arctic, who wrote extensively of her explorations. The American Geographical Society sponsored a series of her scientificexpeditions to the east and north-east coasts of Greenland in 1931, 1933, 1937 & 1938. At the age of sixty-seven, she became the first woman to fly over the North Pole privately chartering a DC-4 and crew.
1939 The Cullum Geographical Medal was awarded to Emmanuel de Martonne. Emmanuel de Martonne was secretary of the Association de Geographes François, and produced a map portraying regions of interior damage.
1940 Robert Cushman Murphy was awarded the Cullum Geographical Medal. Murphy was an American ornithologist and former Lamont curator of birds for the American Museum of Natural History. He was the author of over 600 scientific articles throughou this scientific career.
1945 Archer M. Huntington was awarded the Samuel Finley Breese Morse Medal. Archer M. Huntington is a previous AGS President and Fellow and is deemed to be one of the Society’s most influential leaders.
1946 The George Davidson Medal honors the “exceptional achievement in research for exploration in the Pacific Ocean or the lands bordering therein.” George Davidson was ageographer and scientist noted for his work with the U.S. government exploring and charting the western United States and Alaska. He also published The Discovery of San Francisco Bay in 1907. His daughter established the medal to honor her father.
1948 Hugh Hammond Bennett was awarded the Cullum Geographical Medal. Bennett was a pioneer in the field of soil conservation in the United States of America. He founded and headed the Soil Conservation Service, a federal agency now referred toas the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
1950 The Cullum Geographical Medal was given to Hans Wilson Ahlmann inrecognition of his studies of glaciers and climate fluctuations, as well as humangeography.
1951 In the spring of 1951, Dr. Seymour delivered at The John Hopkins University the first of the Isaiah Bowman Memorial Lectures, under a trust fund created by Mr. Huntington and administered by the American Geographical Society.
1952 The Cullum Geographical Medal was awarded to Roberto Almagia. Roberto Almagia was a geographer with a specialized interest in cartography and naturalism. In addition to writing numerous books, he collected and edited thefundamentals of MonumentaitaliaeCartographie, which are general and regional maps of Italy from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. He also founded and directed the prestigious series The Regions of Italy's UTET.
1954 The entire British Everest Expedition received the Cullum Geographical Medal.
1956 J. Russell Smith received the Cullum Geographical Medal. He began his teachingcareer as an instructor in the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce of the University of Pennsylvania, and he subsequently became professor and head of the Department of Geography and Industry. A serious lack of good geographical texts for college students turned his attention to writing.
1958 Charles Warren Thornthwaite received the Cullum Geographical Medal. Thornthwaitewas an American geographer and climatologist. He is best known for devising a climate classification system, published in 1948, that is still in use around the world, and also forhis detailed water budget computations of potential evapotranspiration.
1960 On January 28th, 1960 at the annual society dinner at the St. Regis Hotel in NewYork City, medals were awarded. Dr. Richard Hartshorne – who was part of a key geographical debate in the 1950s over the nature of geography as a subject- was awardedthe Charles P. Daly Medal. The David Livingstone Centenary Medal was awarded toWilliam E. Rudolph -- who wrote about “Vanishing trails of Atacama Desert.”
On February 3, 1960, Louise A. Boyd became the first woman to be elected to theCouncil. Boyd stands unique among women associated with the AGS. She was thepremier female scientific explorer of the first three-quarters of the twentieth century. Sheled eight expeditions to Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.
1961 On April 26, 1961 the “Night of Exploration” dinner was held at the Explorer’s Club. Former President Herbert Hoover received the Explorer’s Medal “for his humanitarianachievements and for his exploration in Australia, Burma, and China as a miningengineer.”
1963 On October 7, 1963 the American Geographical Society awarded the Cullum Geographical medal to Rachel Carson, the author of “The Sea Around Us” and “SilentSpring.” Carson was an American marine biologist and nature writer whose writings arecredited with advancing the global environmental movement.
1964 John Leighly was awarded the Cullum Geographical Medal. Leighly regularly offered classes in climatology, meteorology, and cartography, as well as the history of geographic thought and, at times, the geography of Europe or of Scandinavia. He was best known for his publications on climatology (including its history) and cartography.
1966 The Samuel Finley Breese Morse Medal is awarded to Charles B. Hitchcock, who supervised the Society’s Hispanic-America program and was also an honorary Fellow ofthe AGS.
1967 Peter Haggett was awarded the Cullum Geographical Medal. Haggett is famed for hissignificant research contributions to the field of human geography, and is the author oreditor of over thirty books on geographical practice, theory, and individual research topics.In the latter half of his career Haggett specialized in the geographical study ofepidemiology and the spatial relationships and distribution of infectious diseases.
1968 The O.M. Miller Cartographic Medal was established in 1968 by the AGS Council.Miller, whose forty-six year career with AGS was only one of the many accomplishmentsof his career. While on staff, Miller headed, researched, and taught at the Society’sSchool of Surveying, specializing in photogrammetry and cartography. He developed theMiller Cylindrical projection in 1942, and completed many other aerial photography and surveying projects. The O.M. Miller Cartographic Medal honors “outstandingcontributions in the field of cartography or geodesy.”
1969 On July 20th Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin become the first andsecond people, respectively, to land on the Moon. This success was part of the Apollo 11mission, which was the first manned mission to land on the moon. Michael Collins wasthe Command Module Pilot for this mission while Armstrong was the Commander, and Aldrin the Lunar Module Pilot. Neil Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. and Michael Collins are each awarded the Cullum Geographical Medal.
1973 Bruce Heezen was awarded the Cullum Geographical Medal. Heezen was anAmerican geologist. He is most famous as being the leader of a team from Columbia University which mapped the Mid-Atlantic Ridge during the 1950s.
1975 The Cullum Geographical Medal was given to Rene Dubos. René Dubos was aFrench-American microbiologist, experimental pathologist, environmentalist, humanist,and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for his book; So Human An Animal. He is credited as an author of a maxim "Think globally, act locally." He devotedmost of his professional life to the empirical study of microbial diseases and to theanalysis of the environmental and social factors that affect the welfare of humans.
1976 Sarah Kerr Myers was appointed Director of the American Geographical Societyin 1976 until September 1982.
1978 In the summer of 1978, the AGS map, photograph, book, journal and atlas collections were transferred to new quarters in the library on the University of Wisconsin– Milwaukee, where its use has flourished and the collection continues to grow.
1983 Mary Lynne Bird was chosen as the Director of the American Geographical Society.
1985 Chauncy D. Harris received the Cullum Geographical Medal. Harris was a pioneer of modern geography. His seminal works in the field of American urban geography, along with his work on the Soviet Union during and after the Cold Warera established him as one of the world's foremost urban geographers. He also madesignificant contributions to the geographical study of ethnicity, specifically with respectto non-Russian minorities living within the Soviet Union. Harris traveled regularly to the Soviet Union and played a key role in establishing a healthy dialog between Soviet and American scholars.
1986 The Geographical Review marked its seventieth anniversary during 1986.
1987 F. Kenneth Hare and Yi-Fu Tuan were each honored with the Cullum Geographical Medal. Hare was a Canadian climatologist and academic, who researched atmospheric carbon dioxide, climate change, drought, and arid zone climates and was astrong advocate for preserving the natural environment. Yi-Fu Tuan became a full professor at the University of Minnesota in 1968 and there began his focus on humanistic geography.
1988 Paul P. Vouras was an Emeritus Professor of Geography at William Patterson College in New Jersey. In 1988, he established the Paul P. Vouras Medal. Hilary LambertHopper designed this medal, which honors “outstanding work in regional geography.”
1991 Alexander Melamid received the Samuel Finley Breese Morse Medal. Melamid wrote an important publication entitled “Oil and the Economic Geography of the Middle East and North Africa,” which is unique in the genre in that it contains the major publications of Melamid rather than the writings of others.
1993 The Wrigley-Fairchild Prize was established in 1993 with a gift from retired Geographical Review Editor, Douglas R McManis, in honor of two legendary predecessors, Gladys Wrigley (1916-1949) and Wilma Fairchild (1950-1972). The Wrigley-Fairchild Prize is awarded every three years to the author of the best article by ayounger or early-career scholar published in the most recent three volumes of the Geographical Review.
1994 Professor Paul F Starrs of the Department of Geography at the University of Nevada, Reno, is chosen as the new Geographical Review editor due to his excellent “vision andbroad ranging geographical interests.”
1997 The Society moved to 120 Wall Street.
Melvin G. Marcus received the Cullum Geographical Medal and was described by AGS Councilors as having a “breadth of vision, commitment to education, and fascination with the world in which he lived.”
1998 At the 1998 Awards Ceremony and Banquet in Milwaukee, the Society's most prestigious medals were presented. Award recipients include: Professor Arthur H. Robinson of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who literally "wrote the book" on modern cartography and geodesy; academician Chen Shupeng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who pioneered and championed automated cartography, remote sensing and GIS in China; Professor Robert C. West of Louisiana State University, a renowned regional geographer specializing in Latin America; and science writer DavaSobel, authorof Longitude (1995), an in-depth history of the quest for longitude, which has sold over 2million copies in 17 languages.
1999 Donald J. Lloyd-Jones received the Samuel Finley Breese Morse Medal for “extraordinary service to the Society and to the field of geography at large. ” Donald J.Lloyd-Jones was President of the American Geographical Society, and joined the AGS Council in 1972.
Jack Dangermond and David Lowenthal were each honored with the Cullum Geographical Medal. Mr.Dangermond is the founder and president of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and has been the foremost leader of one of the greatest revolutions in the history of geography – the advents of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Dr Lowenthal devoted much of his prodigious energy to the American Geographical Society, serving as a Research Associate and as Secretary to the AGS Council.
2000 The AGS Prepares for its Sesquicentennial - 150 years of Geographical Inquiry.
2001 The Samuel Finley Breese Morse Medal was awarded to Douglas R. McManis. Dr. McManis edited the Geographical Review for nearly 20 years and fiercely upheldstandards that have made the Geographical Review a premier geographical publication.
Wilbur Zelinsky received the Cullum Geographical Medal. The Cullum Geographical Medal awards those “who distinguish themselves by geographical discoveries or in the advancement of geographical science.” Zelinsky was described by Councilors of the AGSas “an authentic and original voice in American cultural geography.”
2002 The Alexander and Ilse Melamid Medal was established by Isle Melamid in 2002. This medal honors “outstanding work on the dynamic relationship between human culture and natural resources.”
2004 Ronald F. Abler received the Samuel Finley Breese Morse Medal. The Samuel Finely Breese Morse Medal is awarded “for the encouragement of geographical research.” Abler was described as having “great impact on the contemporary landscape of American academic geography.”
Jackie Ronne [a member of The Society, who participated in an expedition to Antarctica] signed the American Geographical Society’s Fliers’ and Explorers’ Globe, an honor extended to only eighty people during the past century.
2005 On October 10,2005, Mary Upjohn Meader was made an Honorary Fellow of the American Geographical Society. Ms. Meader is termed not only a geographer, but also a pioneering aerial photographer, who, in 1937, photographed large portions of South America and Africa from air.
2006 Jennifer Helzer wins the McColl Family Fellowship for 2007. Dr. Helzer used the fellowship to travel to Australia to work on a comparative study of Italian immigrants in California and Australia. She is interested in contrasting the role Italian immigrants played in shaping socioeconomic development and regional identity in two such distinct Pacific Rim destinations.
2010 The Geographical Review publishes its 100th volume.  Each issue contains essays commenting on the journal’s longstanding contributions to geographical knowledge and scholarship.
The winners of the McColl Family Fellowship for 2010 are Chie Sakakibara and Kim Diver. This fellowship provides its recipients with a plane ticket to their research site. Dr. Sakakibara, a post doctoral research fellow at Columbia University’s Earth Institute at the time, used her fellowship to travel to Pico Island, a major historical whaling center in the Azores, in order to explore the way the people of the Azores have adapted their traditional cultural relationship with the sperm whale in light of climate change. Dr. Diver, a visiting scholar at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, intends to use the fellowship to travel to Panama. The fellowship allowed Dr. Diver to collect data on insular plants that can be used to test updated models of island biogeography that allow broader and more functional application, particularly as such places face effects of climate change.
2013 Karl Zimmerer is awarded the Melamid Medal in recognition for his pioneering research on cultural ecology, particularly agrobiodiversity and conservation, in Latin America.