The United States Geological Survey was established on March 3, 1879, with just a few hours before the mandatory close of the final session of the 45th Congress.
President Rutherford B. Hayes signed the bill appropriating money for sundry civil expenses of the Federal Government for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1879.
The Senate confirmed the nomination of Clarence King in April 1879.
The first duty the U.S. Geological Survey had been the "classification of the public lands." The Federal Government still held title to more than 1.2 billion acres of land, most of which was west of the Mississippi River. At the time, only 200 million acres, or less than 20 percent, had been surveyed.
The USGS has an outstanding history of public service and scientific advances. USGS scientists pioneered hydrologic techniques for gaging the discharge in rivers and streams.
The astronauts who landed on the Moon in 1969, were trained by the agency, in cooperation with NASA. The astronauts were trained in geology to investigate and evaluate methods and equipment for geological and geophysical exploration of the Moon.
In 1970, the Geological Survey published the "National Atlas of the United States of America," a reference tool comprising more than 700 physical, historical, economic, sociocultural, and administrative maps. This was compiled through the combined efforts of more than 80 Federal agencies, specialists, and consultants over a several year period.
Major efforts have been made by the USGS to identify the hazards associated with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, mudflows, ground subsidence, and floods, and great advances have been made toward a capability of predicting some of these disasters.
The National Cartographic Information Center was established to provide a focal point for information on U.S. maps and charts, aerial photographs and space imagery, geodetic control, and related cartographic data.
Innovative ventures by the USGS along with the private sector have given the world access to digital images of neighborhoods and communities, in one of the largest data sets ever made available online.
As the country's largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, USGS collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific data about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems. In 1980, The USGS volcanist David Johnston was taking data readings at what is now known as Johnston Ridge, five miles northwest of Mount St. Helen's summit, when huge bolders began to descend.
The diversity of scientific expertise enables them to carry out large-scale, multi-disciplinary investigations and provide impartial scientific information.
The history of the U.S. Geological Survey has been a rich one, overseeing the development of public-land, Federal-science and mapping policies, and the development of mineral resources within the United States.
The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect quality of life.