Featuring show-stopping imagery and thrilling behind-the-scenes tales, National Geographic 125 Years captures the heart of National Geographic's fascinating history, from its earliest days as a scientific club to its growth into one of the world's largest geographic organizations. The book reveals how much we've come to know about our fascinating world through the pages and unforgettable imagery of National Geographic, and taps key voices from the forefront of ocean and space exploration, climate science, archaeology, mountaineering, and many other disciplines to peer with us over the horizon and see where we are heading in the future.
Organized thematically, chapters focus on major accomplishments in each of the three realms of Earth, Sea, and Sky (featured on the National Geographic flag). Author Mark Collins Jenkins presents the subject matter chronologically, focusing on great leaps forward that dramatically changed our understanding of the planet, from summiting Everest to landing on the moon to discovering Titanic. Sidebars feature famous names including Jared Diamond, Sylvia Earle, Buzz Aldrin, Bob Ballard, Jane Goodall and more, contributing thoughts about big questions of exploration, key frontiers in research, and enduring mysteries. We ask beloved characters like Zahi Hawass whether or not there's anything left to be discovered in the Valley of the Kings; Paul Sereno if we'll be able to create a dinosaur from DNA; Jared Diamond when society faces the next "collapse;" and many more questions designed to be relevant for many years to come.
No mere insider’s account of internal affairs, National Geographic 125 Years focuses on the impact that the National Geographic Society has made on the world and how it has reported and reflected a dramatically changing planet. Special galleries between each of the sections focus on storytelling techniques pioneered by National Geographic, including photography, television, and digital reportage. These offer behind-the-scenes glimpses at the process of telling the greatest stories on earth.
Mark Collins Jenkins is the former chief historian of the National Geographic Society's archives. He is the author of The Book of Marvels, Vampire Forensics, Worlds to Explore, and High Adventure. The author lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
A Man, A Magazine, A Mission
Gilbert H. Grosvenor had barely arrived in town before turning up for work at the Society’s “office”half a rented room in a crowded building across the street from the U.S. Treasury. It was April Fools’ Day of 1899, and Grosvenor must have thought the joke was on him: As he took in his new surroundings, his gaze came to rest on a small coal grate, a nearby fire escapetempting, no doubtand piles of unsold National Geographics, returned by local newsstands.
National Geographic Society founder and President Alexander Graham Bell, he soon learned, was convinced that a membership composed chiefly of government scientistsamong them many who discouraged the “excessive use of picture and anecdote” in their lectureswas too narrow a base on which to build a truly national organization. With only 1,000 names enrolled, he needed to attract a broader spectrum of dues-paying members, and the only instrument he had on hand was National Geographic. Grosvenor’s task was to help volunteer editor John Hyde make it as smart and appealing as the nation’s leading magazines. Use “pictures,” Bell urged his new protégé, “and plenty of them.” For “ ‘The world and all that is in it’ is our theme, and if we can’t find anything to interest ordinary people in that subject we better shut up shop and become a strict, technical, scientific journal for high-class geographers and geological experts.”
Eventually the discouraged Hyde resigned outright, leaving Grosvenor huddled by the coal grate on early winter mornings, or working on the fire escape on stifling summer evenings as, month by month, he sought the elusive secret of success. For every sobersided article he published on the work of the government’s scientific bureaus, he tried to print a countervailing cultural piece on, say, the Boxer Rebellion in China or the revolt of the Ashantis in Ghana. And wherever he cast about for material, he seized every picture he could lay his hands on. In January 1905 he published 11 rare photographs, shot clandestinely by Russian explorers disguised as Tibetan monks, of the forbidden city of Lhasa. In April came 138 photographs of Philippine tribesmen, pored over by Americans curious about the people in their newest colony, ceded to them as spoils of the Spanish-American War. As a result, membership soared in 1905 from 3,256 to 11,479. Grosvenor had reached the turning pointthe end of the beginning.