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Did You Know?
In Did You Know? the National Geographic magazine team shares extra information we gathered to expand your knowledge of our featured subjects.

In 1869 John Wesley Powell became the first white man to successfully lead an expedition down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. He was instrumental in mapping and understanding the geology of the Colorado Plateau. With little money for formal education, Powell had taught himself geology and natural history, and was interested in all aspects of science. He used that knowledge in his extensive explorations of the West. In 1879 he founded and became the first director of the Bureau of Ethnology, where he applied what he had learned about Native Americans during his travels through the West. In 1881 he became the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey, but also continued his duties at the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution. A few years later he was part of a group of men who gathered at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., to form a new society. The date was January 13, 1888, and the association they founded was the National Geographic Society.

—Alice S. Jones