Bache, A. D. (Alexander Dallas), 1806-1867

Alternative names
Birth 1806-07-19
Death 1867-02-17

Biographical notes:

Scientist, educator, and superintendent of the United States Coast Survey.

From the description of A.D. Bache papers, 1828-1863 (bulk 1836-1863). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70979853

Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey.

From the description of Letter, 1858 November 17. (New York State Library). WorldCat record id: 50458533

Physicist; professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, 1828-1836 ? Superintendent of U.S. Coast Survey, 1843-1867.

From the description of Letters to Charles Mayer Wetherill, 1856-1864. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 122410618

Alexander Dallas Bache was a physicist, first president of Girard College, Philadelphia, (1836-1848), and superintendent of U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1843-1867.

From the description of Papers, 1835-1864. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122616005

Bache was a Pennsylvania scientist and educator who served as superintendent of the U. S. Coast Survey 1843-1867.

From the description of Letter, July 11, 1862. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library). WorldCat record id: 310774252

Charles Babbage was a mathematician and inventor.

From the guide to the Charles Babbage selected correspondence, 1827-1871, 1827-1871, (American Philosophical Society)

American physicist.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Washington, to S. Thayer Abert, 1857 June 9. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270134327

Bache, Alexander Dallas, an American physicist and educator. Born in Philadelphia, 1806; graduated U.S. Military Academy at West Point, 1825; Lieutenant of Engineers; Assistant Professor of Engineering at U.S. Military Academy, (1825-26), Professor of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania (1828-36 and 1843-44); first President of Girard College; President of Central High School of Philadelphia and Superintendent of the Public Schools (1841-42); Superintendent of U.S. Coast Survey (1844-67); Vice-President of U.S. Sanitary Commission during Civil War; President of American Philosophical Society and National Academy of Sciences; incorporator of the Smithsonian Institution; author of numerous works on physics and meteorology.

From the description of Papers of Alexander Dallas Bache, 1827-1867. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 122545716

Founder of the National Academy of Sciences.

Alexander Bache was born in 1806. He graduated from Military Academy in 1825 and was appointed an assistant professor immediately. He was President of Girard College and chair at University of Pennsylvania. At his death in 1867, he was the Superintendent of United States Coast Survey, having modernized the project and completed the Surveys of Florida's coastline.

From the description of Letter, 1855. (University of Florida). WorldCat record id: 49962003

Biographical Note

  • 1806, July 19: Born, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1821 - 1825 : Attended United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.
  • 1825 - 1826 : Assistant, Department of Engineering, United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.
  • 1826 - 1828 : Assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers, Newport, R.I.
  • 1828: Married Nancy Clarke Fowler
  • 1828 - 1836 : Professor of natural philosophy and chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1829: Elected member, American Philosophical Society and the Franklin Institute
  • 1833 - 1836 : Member, Board of Trustees, Girard College, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1836: Elected president, Girard College, Philadelphia, Pa. Went to Europe to observe educational institutions, methods, and discipline
  • 1839: Published Report on Education in Europe. Philadelphia: Lydia R. Bailey Appointed principal, Central High School, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1840: Resigned as president of Girard College to be superintendent of schools, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1842: Professor, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1843 - 1867 : Superintendent, United States Coast Survey
  • 1850 - 1851 : President, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 1855 - 1857 : President, American Philosophical Society
  • 1861 - 1865 : Vice president, United States Sanitary Commission
  • 1863: Planned the defense of Philadelphia, Pa., against Robert E. Lee's advance into the North
  • 1863 - 1867 : Charter member and first president, National Academy of Sciences
  • 1864 - 1865 : Visited Europe to recover his health
  • 1867, Feb. 17: Died in Newport, R.I.

From the guide to the A. D. Bache Papers, 1828-1863, (bulk 1836-1863), (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)

Historical Background

The story of the Union Pacific Railroad's involvement with oil and the Tidelands goes back to at least 1911 when the State of California granted the City of Long Beach its tidelands properties for development of commerce, navigation, fisheries, and recreation under a public trust doctine, meaning any development and revenues from such development would have to benefit the state as a whole rather than merely neighboring communities. (The tidelands are defined as land and waterways from the mean high tide to three miles offshore.)

Though oil had been discovered at Signal Hill in 1921, it wasn't until 1932 that oil was discovered in adjacent lands, mainly at the West Wilmington Oil Field. A few years later, the California Legislature gave the California State Lands Commission authority over California's ungranted public trust lands (tidelands, submerged lands, and navigable waters). In 1939 the City of Long Beach Harbor Department created a Petroleum Division and drilled the first well under the tidelands.

The years between 1932 and 1958 saw a succession of court cases and landmark decisions regarding the City's rights to conduct oil operations, property disputes between the City of Long Beach and the Union Pacific Railroad, and the expenditure of oil revenues. Throughout the twentieth century, the tidelands trust doctrine, overseen by the three-member California State Lands Commission, has changed drastically and what exactly is considered state public land use has been a debate since the beginning, leading to lawsuits and jurisdictional amendments over the years.

In the early 1990s, the Port of Long Beach purchased the 725-acre Union Pacific Railroad site, within the Wilmington Field off the coast of Long Beach for $405 million for the land and mineral rights.

From the guide to the Union Pacific Railroad Tidelands records, 1940s-1950s, (USC Libraries Special Collections)

Alexander Dallas Bache was born in Philadelphia on July 19, 1806 to Richard Bache Jr. and Sara Bache, and was a great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1825 and then remained there as assistant professor for some time. As a lieutenant in the corps of engineers he was engaged for a short time in the erection of coastal fortifications.

He taught natural philosophy and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania (1828-1841 and 1842-1843) and from 1839 to 1842 served as the first president of Central High School of Philadelphia, the second oldest public high school in the United States. From 1836 to 1838 he travelled Europe on behalf of the trustees of what later became Girard College; during this time he also studied European systems of education and on his return to the United States published his conclusions in a report. In 1843 he was appointed superintendent of the United States Coast Survey and in this capacity carried out a comprehensive survey, mapping out the entire coast and amassing a vast collection of magnetic and meteorological data. He held this post until his death in Newport, Rhode Island on February 17, 1867.

[Portions of this biographical sketch adapted from "Alexander Dallas Bache," Wikipedia article, retrieved 6 Apr 2007]

From the guide to the Alexander Dallas Bache Letters, 1848-1860, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Alexander Dallas Bache (1806-1867) was an important scientific reformer during the early nineteenth century. From his position as superintendent of the United States Coast Survey, and through leadership roles in the scientific institutions of the time, Bache helped bring American science into alignment with the professional nature of its European counterpart. In addition, Bache fostered the reform of public education in America.

On July 19, 1806 Alexander Dallas Bache was born into one of Philadelphia's elite families. The son of Richard Bache and Sophia Dallas, he was Benjamin Franklin's great-grandson, nephew to George Dallas (vice president under James K. Polk), and grandson to Alexander James Dallas (secretary of the treasury under James Madison). In 1821, Bache was admitted to the United States Military Academy at the age of 15, graduating first in his class four years later. He remained at the Academy for an additional two years to teach mathematics and natural history. While serving as a lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers, working on the construction of Fort Adams in Newport, R.I., he met Nancy Clarke Fowler whom he would later marry.

Bache left the Army in 1828 to begin an academic career, accepting an appointment as professor of natural philosophy and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. Although his scientific interests were broad, he had a particular interest in geophyscial research. While in Philadelphia, he constructed a magnetic observatory, and made extensive research into terrestrial magnetism, and during the 1830s he began to be recognized as a leading figure in the city's scientific community. Bache was an active member of the American Philosphical Society and the Franklin Institute, seeking to raise the professional standards of both institutions and urging them to place a stronger emphasis on original research. While at the Franklin Institute from 1830-1835, Bache led a Federally-funded investigation into steam-boiler explosions, the government's first use of technical experts to examine a matter involving public policy.

In 1836 Bache became interested in educational reform when he was asked to help organize the curriculum at Girard College, of which he later served as president. Bache spent two years in Europe visiting over 250 educational institutions. The result of his visit was a 600 page study, Report on Education in Europe, to the Trustees of the Girard College for Orphans published in 1839. Although Bache was unable to apply the report at Girard College because of its delayed opening, it proved useful in overhauling the curriculum of Philadelphia's Central High School, where he was superintendent from 1839-1842, and was widely influential among American educational reformers, helping to introduce the Prussian educational model to the United States.

After meeting many of the leading savants during a European tour, including Alexander von Humboldt, Francois Arago, and Karl Friedrich Gauss, Bache became convinced of the need to professionalize American science. His opportunity to make an impact came in 1843 with the death of Ferdinand Hassler, superindendent of the U.S. Coast Survey. In the years before the Civil War, the Coast Survey supported more scientists then any other institution in the country, and Bache and his colleagues saw the Survey as a means of gaining federal patronage for science. After a campaign by his friends and colleagues, Bache was named as Hassler's replacement. Over the next two decades Bache transformed the Coast Survey into one of the nation's leading scientific institutions, becoming an important patron of science himself in the process . Bache was not just an administrator, but remained personally involved in field work.

Bache also led the reform of American science through his leadership of an elite group known as the "Lazzaroni" or scientific beggars. The goal of the Lazzaroni was to ensure that the nation's leading scientists kept control of the nation's scientific institutions, and they were instrumental in reforming the American Association for the Advancement of Science (of which Bache was president of in 1850). In his remarkably busy schedule, Bache was a member of the Lighthouse Board (1844-1845), superintendent of the Office of Weights and Measures (1844), and a prominent regent for the Smithsonian Institution, where he convinced fellow Lazzaroni Joseph Henry to become its first secretary. Bache also played a leading role in the creation of the National Academy of Sciences, serving as its first president. When the Americn Civil War broke out, Bache focused the Coast Survey to support the war effort, was vice president of the Sanitary Commision, a consultant to the army and navy on battle plans, a superintended for Philadelphia's defence plans, and a member of the Permanent Commission of the navy in charge of evaluating new weapons. Bache died in Newport, R.I. on February 17, 1867.

From the guide to the A. D. Bache Collection, 1833-1873, (American Philosophical Society)


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