Davidson, George, 1825-1911

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George Davidson - geodesist, astronomer, geographer and engineer - was born in Nottingham, England, on May 9, 1825. In 1832 he came to the United States with his parents, who settled in Pennsylvania. Upon graduation from Central High School, Philadelphia, he was appointed magnetic observer at Girard College Observatory.

In 1845 he began his career with the United States Coast Survey as clerk to Superintendent Alexander D. Bache. Requesting duty in the field in 1846, he spent the next four years almost constantly on the move. He was sent to California in 1850, in charge of the party that was to survey the Pacific Coast, and, with the exception of the period from 1860-1866, he spent the rest of his years in the West. His great work, the study and survey of the California and Pacific Northwest Coast, was embodied in the many Coast and Geodetic Survey charts and in the Coast pilots.

At the outset of the Civil War, he was assigned to the Atlantic Coast, where he assisted in fortifications for the defense of Philadelphia, and was detailed for special naval service along the Florida coast. Before returning to the West Coast, he undertook two important assignments in 1867--the survey of the Isthmus of Darien to determine the feasibility of a canal and the preliminary geographical reconnaissance of Alaska.

In 1868 Davidson was placed in general charge of the Coast Survey work on the Pacific Coast, a position he retained until June 1895. His reputation in the scientific world was such that he was frequently called to serve upon commissions (the Irrigation Commission of California in 1873, the Mississippi River Commission in 1888, the Advisory Harbor Improvement Commission for San Francisco, and the United States Assay Commissions of 1872 and 1884) and was appointed member in charge of the American Transit of Venus Expedition to Japan in 1874 and a delegate to the International Geodetic Convention at Paris in 1889. He served as president of the California Academy of Sciences and the Geographical Society of the Pacific, and was an acknowledged authority on the early history of the Pacific Coast. It was largely through his influence that James Lick decided to build and endow the Lick Observatory. Davidson's own private observatory in Lafayette Park, San Francisco, was one of the first in California, and he made its facilities available to fellow scientists and interested laymen.

Davidson was closely identified with the University of California, serving as honorary professor of geodesy and astronomy from 1870, as a regent, 1877-1884, and as professor of geography, 1895-1905. On June 30, 1905, he retired from active teaching, and devoted increasing time to his studies on early Pacific Coast navigation despite his failing eyesight. He died on December 2, 1911.

From the guide to the George Davidson Papers, 1845-1911, (The Bancroft Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Newcomb, Simon, 1835-1909. Papers of Simon Newcomb, 1854-1936 (bulk 1865-1909). Library of Congress
creatorOf Sengletten, Louis A. Point Arena Lt. Ho. Reservation, Mendocino County, California : showing additions in construction and changes of Southern Bluff and "Blow Hole" since original survey was made in 1870 / Executed Nov. 1880 by Louis A. Sengletten, Asst. U.S.C. & G. Survey. The California Digital Library
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. [Map showing route of Southern Pacific Railroad from Indio to Yuma : Calif.]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores : [Calif.]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Plat the Rancho Sausal Redondo : [Calif.]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf George Davidson Papers, 1845-1911 The Bancroft Library.
referencedIn Lawson, James S. James S. Lawson autobiography ... : San Francisco : ms., 1879. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Fryer, John, 1839-1928. John Fryer papers, [ca. 1861-1921]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Los Alamitos : [Calif.]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Strobel, Max. Rancho Boca de la Playa [Calif.] : 8,237 46/100 acres / surveyed by Max Strobel, Dep. Sur., February 1869. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Molineaux, Mamie, A. Mamie A. Molineaux scrapbook of letters, 1851-1889. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Berkeley Club Papers, 1873-1960 The Bancroft Library.
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. George Davidson papers. California Academy of Sciences
creatorOf United States Coast Survey. Section X, U.S. Coast Survey ... tracing showing location of a rocky shoal near Farallones, off San Francisco, Cal. : and soundings made in the search for it by the party in charge of G. Bradford, asst., in the steam-tug "Sol. Thomas," July 26th, 1874. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Selfridge, T. O. (Thomas Oliver), 1836-1924. T.O. Selfridge papers, 1852-1926 (bulk 1858-1880). Library of Congress
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. George Davidson letters to Jane Dale Owen Fauntleroy, his mother-in-law, 1851-1860. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Malay Peninsula & Malacca St. / Geo. Davidson. University of California, Bancroft Library, ARL
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Map showing catchment areas of the Bear Valley (San Bernardino Mt.), 74 Sq. M., the San Luis Rey River Irrigation Co., 246 Sq. M., and the San Diego Flume Co. (Cuyamaca), 13 1/2 Sq. M. : [Southern California] / George Davidson. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Kohklux, Chilkaht Chief. Map of the Chilkaht : [Alaska and Yukon] / Kohklux. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Las Bolsas : [Calif.] / Davidson, June 10/71. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Coast line north of San Diego from Wheeler's maps, May 1871 : [Calif. / by George Davidson]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Frazer, John Fries, 1812-1872. Papers, 1834-1871. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1668-1983, Bulk, 1750-1850, 1668-1983 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Kate Sessions Collection, 1876-1940 San Diego History Center Document Collection
creatorOf Edwards, Henry, 1830-1891. Henry Edwards letter to George Davidson : New York, 1883 May 26. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Edmonds, Franklin Spencer, 1874-1945. Collection. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. A scientific life: a biographical sketch; 1880. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Tobar y Tamariz, Josef. Plan of Monterey on [sic] California / by Don Josef Tobar y Tamara, 7th December 1786 ; [copied by] George Davidson. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Alexander family. Alexander family papers, 1818-1956. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. The discovery of Humboldt Bay / George Davidson. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. George Davidson biography and essay on irrigation, May, 1879. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Plat of the Ballona Rancho : [Calif.]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Rancho Los Palos Verdes : [Calif.]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Bancroft, George, 1800-1891,. Hittell family papers, 1855-1916. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Columbia Rediviva collection, 1787-1967 Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Suess, Werner. Photographs of the Yolo base line, California [picture] / W. Suess, photo. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. [Map of Martinez, California and vicinity]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. La Bolsa Chica : [Calif.]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Molera, E. J. (Eusebius J.). Poin Firmin [i.e. Point Fermin, San Pedro, Calif.] : copied from a Coast Survey tracin[g] with the Lt. Ho. and Lt. Ho. Reservation / E.J. Molera, Assist. Lt. Ho. Engr. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Hayes, Edmund. Edmund Hayes collection on the ship Tonquin [manuscript], 1807-1968. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Lewis, J. F. (John F.). Route of telegraph line constructed & working ... 1866 / Drawn by J.F. Lewis and J.C. White The California Digital Library
creatorOf United States Coast Survey. Vicinity of Cape Mendocino showing the position of new rocks discovered in 1869 & 1870 / located by the party in charge of G. Bradford, Asst. U.S. C[oast] S[urvey] in May & June 1872. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Rodgers, John, 1812-1882. Map showing projected harbor line of San Francisco : as proposed by the U.S. Commissioners to accompany their report of March 28th, 1877 / John Rodgers, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy ; George Davidson, asst. U.S. Coast Survey. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Sketches for compiling map, defences of Philadelphia 1863-64 / Geo. Davidson. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Sargent, Frederick, 1828-1911. Frederick Sargent papers, 1860-1906. Alaska State Library
creatorOf United States Coast Survey. Sketch showing progress of the survey in vicinity of Cape Mendocino / by the party in charge of G. Bradford, Asst., C[oast] S[urvey]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Constantine Rock & vicy. : [Calif.] / U.S.C. & G. Survey ; surveyed by Lieut. E.D. Taussig, U.S.N. Assist., 1884. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Santiago de Santa Ana : [Calif.]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Archives. Record Group IIj, 1898-1988 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Rancho Agua Headunida [i.e. Hedionda] : [Calif.]. The California Digital Library
referencedIn John L. (John Lawrence) LeConte papers, 1812-1897, 1812-1897 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Photographic portraits of prominent Californians and vistors to San Francisco, circa 1871-1876 California Historical Society
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Transit of Venus station, Cerro Roblero, New Mexico : map showing the triangulation to connect the transit [delta] with telegraphic longitude [delta] Fort Selden / George Davidson ; Ferdinand Westdahl, draughtsman. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Hoffmann, C. F. (Charles Frederick), 1838-1913. [Plat of the Rancho Sespe : Ventura County, Calif. / by C.F. Hoffmann]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. From Ms. map of Alaska, and part of Br. Columbia : & N.W. Territory of Canada to explain the map & trails of the Chilkaht Chief Koh-klux, 1852 / George Davidson, 1869-98. University of California, Bancroft Library, ARL
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Planʹ reki Karluka = River Karluk, west coast Kodiak. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. [Map of the Sierra Nevada : Calif.]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. San Jose de Buenos Ayres [Calif.] : confirmed to Maximo Alanis. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn John Fries Frazer papers, 1834-1871, 1834-1871 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Watkins, Carleton E., 1829-1916. Photographic portraits of prominent Californians and visitors to San Francisco, Calif., 1871-1876 [graphic]. California Historical Society
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. George Davidson papers, 1845-1911. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Albrecht, R. Hydrography of Chetko Cove, Oregon / by the party under the command of Commander P.C. Johnson U.S.N. asst., C.S. ; U.S. Coast Survey, Benjamin Peirce, superintendent. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Watkins, Carleton E., 1829-1916. Mammoth plate landscape photographs from the George Davidson collection [graphic]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Hancock, Henry, fl. 1857-1879. San Joaquin Rancho [Orange County, Calif.] : containing 48,803 16/100 acres / urveyed by Henry Hancock, December 1858. The California Digital Library
creatorOf Healy, Lucien B. (Lucien Bonaparte). Niguel Rancho [Calif.] : 13,376 3/100 acres / surveyed by Lucien B. Healy, August & September 1869. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Map of Rancho San Pedro : situated in the County of Los Angeles, California. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn T. O. Selfridge Papers, 1852-1926, (bulk 1858-1880) Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
creatorOf Rockwell, Cleveland, 1837-1907. Sketch from unfinished topographical sheets of the reconnaissance from Yaquina to Tillamook Bay : surveyed in June, July, and August, 1887 / by the party under Cleveland Rockwell, Asst. U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. [Overlay map showing shipwrecks 1852-1893 on central California coast : from Point Pinos to Bodega Head]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Johnson, J. W. (Joe William), 1908-. Pioneers in coastal studies. I. George Davidson, 1973-1975. Water Resources Collections and Archives, WRCA
creatorOf Meek, G. D. Plan of Port San Francisco in New Albion, Lat. 37°13ʹ W. : from a Spanish manuscript published by A. Dalrymple, 1790 / G.D. Meek, 1938. The California Digital Library
creatorOf Hancock, Henry, fl. 1857-1879. Rancho Los Cerritos [Calif.] : 27,054 36/100 a. / surveyed by Henry Hancock, July 1866. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Harte, Bret, 1836-1902. Bret Harte correspondence on microfilm. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. George Davidson letterbooks, 1846-1882. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Gilman, Daniel Coit, 1831-1908. Daniel Coit Gilman correspondence, 1871-1875. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Davidson, George, 1825-1911. Native races of Java. University of California, Bancroft Library, ARL
creatorOf Kohklux, Chilkaht Chief. Koh-klux' map Chilkaht : [Alaska and Yukon]. UC Berkeley Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 person
associatedWith A.L. Bancroft & Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Albrecht, R. person
associatedWith Alexander family. family
associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820 person
associatedWith Bates, Alfred, b. 1840. person
correspondedWith Berkeley Club corporateBody
associatedWith Columbia (Ship : 1787-1801) corporateBody
associatedWith Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839 person
associatedWith Coues, Elliott, 1842-1899 person
associatedWith Cuvier, Georges, Baron, 1769-1832 person
associatedWith Darlington, William, 1782-1863 person
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A., (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 person
associatedWith Edmonds, Franklin Spencer, 1874-1945. person
associatedWith Edwards, Henry, 1830-1891. person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 person
associatedWith Fauntleroy, Jane Dale Owen. person
associatedWith Fitch, John person
associatedWith Frazer, John Fries, 1812-1872. person
associatedWith Fryer, John, 1839-1928. person
associatedWith Genth, F. A., (Frederick Augustus), 1820-1893 person
associatedWith Gilman, Daniel Coit, 1831-1908. person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
associatedWith Hancock, Henry, fl. 1857-1879. person
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. person
associatedWith Harte, Bret, 1836-1902. person
correspondedWith Hayes, Edmund. person
associatedWith Healy, Lucien B. (Lucien Bonaparte) person
associatedWith Hoffmann, C. F. (Charles Frederick), 1838-1913. person
associatedWith Johnson, J. W. (Joe William), 1908- person
associatedWith Kohklux, Chilkaht Chief. person
associatedWith Lawson, James S. person
associatedWith LeConte, John L., (John Lawrence), 1825-1883 person
associatedWith Lewis, J. F. (John F.) person
associatedWith Meek, G. D. person
associatedWith Molera, E. J. (Eusebius J.) person
associatedWith Molineaux, Mamie, A. person
associatedWith Newcomb, Simon, 1835-1909. person
associatedWith Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727 person
associatedWith Online Archive of California. corporateBody
associatedWith Phelps, Alonzo. person
associatedWith Poinsett, Joel Roberts, 1779-1851 person
associatedWith Rittenhouse, David, 1732-1796 person
associatedWith Rodgers, John, 1812-1882. person
associatedWith Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813 person
associatedWith San Diego Flume Company corporateBody
associatedWith San Luis Rey River Irrigation Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Sargent, Frederick, 1828-1911. person
associatedWith Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793-1864 person
correspondedWith Selfridge, T. O. (Thomas Oliver), 1836-1924. person
associatedWith Sengletten, Louis A. person
associatedWith Sessions, Kate Olivia, 1857-1940 person
associatedWith Seybert, Adam, 1773-1825 person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Stevens, Henry person
associatedWith Strobel, Max. person
associatedWith Suess, Werner. person
associatedWith Sully, Thomas, 1783-1872 person
associatedWith Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824 person
associatedWith Tobar y Tamariz, Josef. person
associatedWith United States Coast Survey. corporateBody
associatedWith University of California, Berkeley. corporateBody
associatedWith U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. corporateBody
associatedWith Waterton, Charles, 1782-1865 person
associatedWith Watkins, Carleton E., 1829-1916. person
associatedWith Wayne, Anthony person
associatedWith Westdahl, Ferdinand. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New Mexico--Fort Selden Region
Rancho Las Bolsas (Calif.)
California, Southern
Alaska
Fort Selden (N.M.)
San Diego County (Calif.)
Southeast Asia
California
Canada, Western
Humboldt Bay (Calif.)
California, Central
Philadelphia (Pa.)
Subject
Triangulation--Maps
Watersheds--Maps
Engineering
Navigation
Scientists--Biography
Shipwrecks--Maps
Astronomy--19th century
Geography
Geodesy
Irrigation
Water supply--Maps
Science
Indians of North America--Maps--Specimens
Astronomy
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1825-05-09

Death 1911-12-02

Americans

English

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