United States Coast & Geodetic Survey – National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration U. S. Department of Commerce

A Brief History of the Survey

This agency of the Federal Government, although virtually unknown outside of the government, is indeed one of the oldest agencies in our system of government.  A review of its brief history below illustrates the contributions that those who served in the Survey have made to our great nation.  Some of those contributors to our national well-being are buried in Arlington National Cemetery and we are honored to help remember them here.

They were permitted burial in Arlington National Cemetery under the provisions of 32 U.S. Code, which states, in part: “Commissioned officers, United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (now National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) who die during or subsequent to the service specified in the following categories and whose last service terminated honorably:
(1) Assignment to areas of immediate military hazard.
(2) Served in the Philippine Islands on December 7, 1941.
(3) Transferred to the Department of the Army or the Department of the Navy under certain statutes.

  • 1807 – Survey of the Coast established by President Thomas Jefferson.
  • 1814 – Surgeon General orders surgeons to keep weather diaries; first government collection of weather data.
  • 1836 – Survey of the Coast renamed to U.S. Coast Survey.
  • 1842 – James P. Espy appointed first official U.S. Government meteorologist.
  • 1848 – Volunteer Weather Observers recruited through the Smithsonian Institution.
  • 1849 – Smithsonian Institution supplies weather instruments to telegraph companies and establishes extensive weather observation network.
  • 1853 – First Tide Prediction Tables published.
  • 1854-1855 – James McNeill Whistler employed by the U.S. Coast Survey as an engraver.
  • 1870 – Congress establishes national weather warning service under the Sec. of War.
  • 1871 – U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries (COF) created; first daily weather maps published.
  • 1878 – U.S. Coast Survey name changed to Coast and Geodetic Survey to reflect role of geodesy.
  • 1882 – U.S.S. Albatross launched; first government research vessel built exclusively for fisheries and oceanographic research.
  • 1885 – Wood Hole, MA, first purpose-built marine fisheries research lab.
  • 1890-91 – Congress transfers weather service from Army Signal Corps to new Dept. of Agriculture; a civilian weather service begins.
  • 1895 – First Washington, DC, Daily Weather Map published by the Weather Bureau.
  • 1896 – First hurricane warning service established.
  • 1898 – Weather Bureau begins regular kite observations; last flight made in 1933.
  • 1899 – Coast and Geodetic Survey open field office in Seattle, WA, to support ships and survey field expeditions; future Pacific Marine Center.
  • 1901 – National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) established from U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Office of Weights and Measures.
  • 1903 – Commission of Fish & Fisheries transferred to Bureau of Fisheries (BOF) in Commerce and Labor Dept.
  • 1912 – First Fire Weather Forecast issued.
  • 1914 – Aerological Section of Weather Bureau begins.
  • 1917 – Commissioned Officers Corps created; nucleus of NOAA Corps.
  • 1926 – Coast and Geodetic Survey begins to provide charts for air navigation.
  • 1928 – Teletype replaces telegraph and telephone as the primary method for communicating weather information.
  • 1933 – Coast and Geodetic Survey opens a field office in Norfolk, VA.
  • 1937 – Weather Bureau begins official radiosonde (radio meteorographs) observations.
  • 1939 – Commerce’s Bureau of Fisheries transferred to Dept. of Interior.
  • 1940 – Weather Bureau transferred to Dept of Commerce; first official daily forecasts issued.
  • 1942 – Central Analysis Center created; forerunner of the National Meteorological Center (1950), and now the National Center for Environmental Research.
  • 1945 – First fallout forecast for a nuclear explosion made at Alamagordo, NM.
  • 1946 – Weather Bureau creates first U.S. Government hydrologist; staffed River Forest Centers in Cincinnati, OH, and Kansas City, MO; continuing the work of the River and Flood Service.
  • 1948 – Pacific Tsunami Warning System established in Honolulu, HI.
  • 1950 – First annual Fisheries of the United States published; Weather Service begins 30-Day Weather Outlook; releases Tornado Alerts.
  • 1951 – National Weather Records Center established in Asheville, NC; Severe Weather Warning Center begins operation at Tinker AFB, OK.
  • 1952 – Weather Bureau organizes a Severe Local Storms Forecasting Unit which moves to Kansas City, MO, in 1954.
  • 1956 – Dept. of Interior divides duties into Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and Bureau of Sport Fishing and Wildlife.
  • 1960 – First weather satellite, TIROS-1, launched from Air Force Missile Center in Cape Canaveral, FL.
  • 1962 – Great Lakes Research Center established.
  • 1965 – Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) created; consolidating the Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Weather Bureau.
  • 1966 – Marine Resources and Engineering Development Act initiates Stratton Commission; National Sea GrantColleges and Programs Act;
  • National Operational Satellite System established.
  • 1967 – Eleven ESSA research centers established including Atlantic Oceanographic Lab., Pacific Oceanographic Lab., National Severe Storms Lab.,
  • National Hurricane Research Lab.; National Council for Marine Research, Resources and Engineering Development endorses the formation of the
  • National Data Buoy Development Program within the U.S. Coast Guard – forerunner of the NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center.
  • 1969 – Stratton Commission report Our Nation and the Sea recommends a new agency.

William Bowie, Captain, U. S. Army & Geodetic Survey
William Ward Duffield, Brigadier General, U. S. Army – Director, Coastal & Geodetic Survey
Ernest W. Eickelberg, Lieutenant Commander – Geodetic Survey
Maurice A. Hecht, Commander, U. S. Coast & Geodetic Survey – Assistant to the Director
Nicholas H. Heck, Captain, U. S. Coast & Geodetic Survey & Assistant to the Director – 41 Years of Service
Carey V. Hodgson, Major, United States Army & Member of the Survey
William J. Meng, Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force & Geodetic Survey
Raymond Stanton Patton, Rear Admiral – Long-Time Director, Highly Regarded Scientist
Robert Francis Anthony Studds, Rear Admiral, US Coast & Geodetic Survey
Charles B. Tuch, Early Weather Inovator & Inventor – USCGS

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