Henry Gannett
Henry Gannett, M.E.; LL.D. (August 24, 1846 - November 5, 1914) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 geographer who is described as the "Father of the Quadrangle
Quadrangle (geography)
In geology or geography, the word "quadrangle" usually refers to a United States Geological Survey 7.5-minute quadrangle map, which are usually named after a local physiographic feature. The shorthand "quad" is also used, especially with the name of the map; for example, "the Ranger Creek, Texas...

" which is the basis for topographical maps
Topographic map
A topographic map is a type of map characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief, usually using contour lines in modern mapping, but historically using a variety of methods. Traditional definitions require a topographic map to show both natural and man-made features...

 in the United States.


He was born in Bath, Maine
Bath, Maine
Bath is a city in Sagadahoc County, Maine, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 9,266. It is the county seat of Sagadahoc County. Located on the Kennebec River, Bath is a port of entry with a good harbor. The city is popular with tourists, many drawn by its...

, graduated with a B.S. at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in 1869 and at the Hooper Mining School in 1870 also at Harvard.

In 1871 he was almost simultaneously offered positions with Charles Francis Hall
Charles Francis Hall
Charles Francis Hall was an American Arctic explorer. Little is known of Hall's early life. He was born in the state of Vermont, but while he was still a child his family moved to Rochester, New Hampshire, where, as a boy, he was apprenticed to a blacksmith. In the 1840s he married and drifted...

 on what would become the ill-fated Polaris Expedition
Polaris expedition
The Polaris expedition was led by the American Charles Francis Hall, who intended it to be the first expedition to reach the North Pole. Sponsored by the United States government, it was one of the first serious attempts at the Pole, after that of British naval officer William Edward Parry, who in...

 or going with Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden
Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden
Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden was an American geologist noted for his pioneering surveying expeditions of the Rocky Mountains in the late 19th century. He was also a physician who served with the Union Army during the Civil War.-Early life:Ferdinand Hayden was born in Westfield, Massachusetts...

 to survey Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, is a national park located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho...

. He chose the Hayden adventure and would map the westen portion of the Hayden's division until 1879.

On July 26, 1872 while climbing the then unnamed highest mountain in the Gallatin Mountains, he and his party experience electric shocks following a lightning
Lightning is an atmospheric electrostatic discharge accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms, and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms...

 event near the summit. He was to name the mountain Electric Peak
Electric Peak
Electric Peak is the tallest mountain in the Gallatin Range of southern Montana, close to the Wyoming border and rises to an altitude of . The peak has some of the greatest physical relief in Yellowstone National Park, rising above its base....


He married Mary E. Chase on November 24, 1874.

The Father of Government Mapmaking

In 1879 he was among those lobbying for centralizing the mapping functions into one government agency. Previously individual mapmakers and agencies had to compete for money from Congress for funds for projects.

He lobbied to call the new organization "United States Geological and Geographical Survey" although the name United States Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey
The United States Geological Survey is a scientific agency of the United States government. The scientists of the USGS study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The organization has four major science disciplines, concerning biology,...

 would officially be approved.

His first job in the new organization under its first director Clarence King
Clarence King
Clarence R. King was an American geologist, mountaineer, and art critic. First director of the United States Geological Survey, from 1879 to 1881, King was noted for his exploration of the Sierra Nevada. He was born in Newport, Rhode Island.-Career:...

 was geographer of the United States Census, 1880
United States Census, 1880
The United States Census of 1880 was the tenth United States Census conducted by the Census Bureau during June 1880. It was the first time that women were permitted to be enumerators...

. He laid out 2,000 enumeration districts with such precision that for the first time each census enumerator knew in advance the metes and bounds of his particular district. The completion of this work on July 1, 1882 is considered the start of true topographical work in the United States and the birth of the quad. He was promoted to Chief Geographer for the Geological Society by John Wesley Powell
John Wesley Powell
John Wesley Powell was a U.S. soldier, geologist, explorer of the American West, and director of major scientific and cultural institutions...

 and would hold the position until 1896.

In 1883 Gannett was one of founding members of the National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

. He would become serve as it first secretary, then treasurer, then vice-president, and finally president in 1909.

In 1884 he published his first Dictionary of Altitudes which listed all known survey altitudes in the United States as well as the source of the survey. He was to perusade various organizations doing the surveys including the railroads to begin using similar datums so the data could interconnect.

In 1885 he published Boundaries of the United States and of the Several States and Territories, with a Historical Sketch of the Territorial Changes, which was the first attempt to standardize the history of the boundaries in the country.

He was chief geographer for the United States Census, 1890
United States Census, 1890
The Eleventh United States Census was taken June 2, 1890. The data was tabulated by machine for the first time. The data reported that the distribution of the population had resulted in the disappearance of the American frontier...

 and United States Census, 1900
United States Census, 1900
The Twelfth United States Census, conducted by the Census Office on June 1, 1900, determined the resident population of the United States to be 76,212,168, an increase of 21.0 percent over the 62,979,766 persons enumerated during the 1890 Census....

In 1890 he and Thomas Corwin Mendenhall
Thomas Corwin Mendenhall
Thomas Corwin Mendenhall was an autodidact US physicist and meteorologist.-Biography:Mendenhall was born in Hanoverton, Ohio to Stephen Mendenhall, a farmer and carriage-maker,...

 of the U.S. National Geodetic Survey
U.S. National Geodetic Survey
National Geodetic Survey, formerly called the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey , is a United States federal agency that defines and manages a national coordinate system, providing the foundation for transportation and communication; mapping and charting; and a large number of applications of science...

 campaigned to establish the United States Board on Geographic Names
United States Board on Geographic Names
The United States Board on Geographic Names is a United States federal body whose purpose is to establish and maintain uniform usage of geographic names throughout the U.S. government.-Overview:...

 to create official names for locations in the United States.

In 1893 A Manual of Topographic Methods which was the basis for standardizing survey and mapping processes.

In 1896 in his last year with the USGS, he started the use of the Benchmark (surveying)
Benchmark (surveying)
The term bench mark, or benchmark, originates from the chiseled horizontal marks that surveyors made in stone structures, into which an angle-iron could be placed to form a "bench" for a leveling rod, thus ensuring that a leveling rod could be accurately repositioned in the same place in the future...


In 1899, he was invited with other elite scientists on the Harriman Alaska Expedition
Harriman Alaska Expedition
In 1899, wealthy railroad magnate Edward Harriman arranged for a maritime expedition to Alaska. Harriman brought with him an elite community of scientists, artists, photographers, and naturalists to explore and document the Alaskan coast...


In 1904 he was among the founders of the American Association of Geographers.

In 1906 Gannett Peak
Gannett Peak
Gannett Peak is the highest peak in the U.S. state of Wyoming and straddles the boundary between Fremont and Sublette Counties along the Continental Divide.- Overview :...

, the highest peak in Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

, was named for him.

In 1909 he was named chairman of a special committee to examine and verify the records of Robert E. Peary in the controversy with Frederick Cook
Frederick Cook
Frederick Albert Cook was an American explorer and physician, noted for his claim of having reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908. This would have been a year before April 6, 1909, the date claimed by Robert Peary....

 over who was the first to reach the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...


He was assistant director of the census of the Philippines (1902) and of Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 (1907-08). From 1897 to 1909, he was a vice president of the American Statistical Association
American Statistical Association
The American Statistical Association , is the main professional US organization for statisticians and related professions. It was founded in Boston, Massachusetts on November 27, 1839, and is the second oldest, continuously operating professional society in the United States...



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