The Coast and Geodetic Survey Annual Reports 1844 - 1910 Bibliography of Appendices
The Annual Reports of the Superintendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey show the progress of the work of the agency throughout the year in detail. The annual reports include appendices - reports on the many scientific and technological activities of the Coast Survey - which are indexed in the following pages by author, chronologically, and by function.
The NOAA Central Library has digitized the annual reports for the years 1852 to 1892 as part of its Climate Database Modernization Program. Links to the PDF versions of the annual reports are provided where available.
The following collection of articles is found in the appendices of the Annual Reports of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey and Coast and Geodetic Survey for the years 1844 to 1910. In the years 1844 to 1890, the Coast Survey reports reflect the growth of Nineteenth Century American physical science. In particular, the evolution of many facets of the disciplines of Geodesy, Geophysics, Hydrography (in the sense of measuring depths for nautical charting), Topography, and Oceanography are traced in the reports of the Coast Survey. Not surprisingly, as related to the work of the Survey, there are also major papers on astronomy, geology, meteorology, metrology (the Office of Weights and Measures, forerunner of today's National Institute of Standards and Technology, resided within the Coast Survey and Coast and Geodetic Survey), geographic exploration, harbor improvements, printing technology, engraving, photography, science policy and politics, philosophy, mathematics, error analysis, and national defense. Occasionally there are rousing accounts of adventure at sea; ship wrecks; pioneering experiences on the West Coast, Alaska, and the Philippines; and first hand narratives of Coast Survey hydrographers and topographers attached to the Union forces during the Civil War.
The Survey was continental in scope, tieing together east and west coasts by an invisible transcontinental network of triangles while leading American commerce by means of precise nautical charting surveys into the ports of our Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific shores. Storms, mountains, dust, mud, deserts, wild beasts, heat and cold; all were the companions of the Coast Surveyors. They engaged in a great physical adventure which is little known and little understood. Beyond the romance of the field work of the Coast Surveyors, there was an enduring intellectual adventure as the field men and the office force of the Coast Survey engaged in a fascinating quest for the ultimate limits of accuracy of scientific measurement. They were seekers of scientific "truth." No effort was too great or hardship too onerous to overcome in this quest. The perseverance and fortitude of the field men was matched by the office force of mathematicians, physicists, geodesists, astronomers, instrument-makers, draftsmen, engravers, and pressmen. These men and women (the Coast Survey hired women professionals as early as 1845) helped push back the limits of astronomic measures, designed new and more accurate observational instruments for sea and land surveying, developed new techniques for the mathematical analysis of the mountains of data obtained by the field parties, and further refined techniques of error analysis and mitigation. It was the Coast Survey that led American science away from the older descriptive methods to the modern methods of statistical analysis and the prediction of future states of natural phenomena based on mathematical modeling. Virtually all branches of science, including the social and biological sciences, have adapted similar methodologies and similar techniques in their quest for scientific truth. But, in the United States, it should be remembered that it was the Coast Survey that first trod that path .
The single-minded purpose of Ferdinand Hassler, a Swiss immigrant, is what first brought the Coast Survey into existence. As the first Superintendent of the Coast Survey, 1816-1818 and 1832-1843, he imbued the organization with love of "truth" and unswerving compromise with the twin principles of accuracy and precision. His motto was: "It is the duty of every man to be honest and to do good." Hassler was the Coast Survey. Following his death in 1843, Alexander Dallas Bache, a great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin, took over the helm of the Coast Survey. Bache, with his friend Joseph Henry, was dedicated to elevating American science to the front ranks of the world community. As opposed to Hassler who was politically naive, Bache moved smoothly through the American political scene for the benefit of the Coast Survey and American science. The Coast Survey prospered during his tenure as Superintendent and became the first great science organization of the United States Federal Government. Professionally, he became a guiding light of the American Association for the Advancement of Science [presided over three of the first six meetings of the AAAS] and was a founder of the National Academy of Sciences.
As part of Superintendent Bache's overall strategy of pushing forward the work of the Coast Survey and elevating the American science community in the eyes of the world scientific community, Bache embarked on the policy of publishing the results of the Coast Survey and the related work of other professional scientists (often supported by Bache's wise patronage through the auspices of the Coast Survey) in the Annual Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey. These reports are worthy of study because they: (1) encompass the history of the Coast Survey; (2) serve as pointers for additional information residing in the National Archives, Library of Congress, and other repositories throughout the United States; and (3) capture much of the evolution of the philosophy of science and engineering; and (4) serve as a guide to understanding the evolution of both the politics of science and the generation of science policies that affect the citizens of the United States today.