Alexander Dallas Bache

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Alexander Dallas Bache
Alexander Dalls Bache pers0117.jpg
6th Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey
In office
Preceded by Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler
Succeeded by Benjamin Peirce
1st President of the National Academy of Sciences
In office
Succeeded by Joseph Henry
Personal details
Born (1806-07-19)July 19, 1806
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
United States
Died February 17, 1867(1867-02-17) (aged 60)
Newport, Rhode Island,
United States
Nationality American
Alma mater US Military Academy
Known for coastal mapping project
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Institutions University of Pennsylvania

Alexander Dallas Bache (July 19, 1806 – February 17, 1867) was an American physicist, scientist, and surveyor who erected coastal fortifications and conducted a detailed survey to map the mideastern United States coastline. Originally an army engineer, he later became Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey, and built it into the foremost scientific institution in the country before the Civil War.

Early life and family

Model by Ferdinand Engel, 1862

Alexander Bache was born in Philadelphia,[1] the son of Richard Bache, Jr., and Sophia Burrell Dallas Bache. He came from a prominent family as he was the nephew of Vice-President George M. Dallas and naval hero Alexander J. Dallas. He was the grandson of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Dallas and was the great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin.[2]

United States Army

After graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1825, as first in his class, he was an assistant professor of engineering there for some time.[3] As a second lieutenant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, he was engaged in the construction of Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island.[3] Bache resigned from the Army on June 1, 1829.


Bache was a professor of natural philosophy and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania from 1828 to 1841 and again from 1842 to 1843.[3] He spent 1836–1838 in Europe on behalf of the trustees of what became Girard College; he was named president of the college after his return. Abroad, he examined European education systems, and on his return he published a valuable report.[1] From 1839 to 1842, he served as the first president of Central High School of Philadelphia, one of the oldest public high schools in the United States.[3]

In 1843, on the death of Professor Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, Bache was appointed superintendent of the United States Coast Survey.[1] He convinced the United States Congress of the value of this work and, by means of the liberal aid it granted, he completed the mapping of the whole coast by a skillful division of labor and the erection of numerous observing stations.[1] In addition, magnetic and meteorological data were collected.[1] Bache served as head of the Coast Survey for 24 years (until his death).

Awards and honors

He was elected an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1845.[4] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 15 March 1858,[5] and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society on 24 May 1860.

After the Civil War, Bache was elected a 3rd Class Companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) in consideration of his contributions to the war effort.

Personal life

He married Nancy Clark Fowler on September 30, 1838, at Newport, Rhode Island. She was born in Newport and died on January 13, 1870 in Philadelphia. She assisted in the publication of much of his work. They were the parents of one son, Henry Wood Bache (1839–November 7, 1878, at Bristol on Long Island, New York).


He died at Newport, Rhode Island, on February 17, 1867, from "softening of the brain".[1] He was buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., under a monument designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson.


Two survey ships were named for him, the A. D. Bache of 1871 and its successor in 1901.

The cydippid ctenophore Pleurobrachia bachei A. Agassiz, 1860 was named for him; it was discovered in 1859 by Alexander Agassiz who was working as an engineer on a ship surveying the United States/Canada boundary between Washington State and British Columbia.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f EB (1878).
  2. ^ Chambers.
  3. ^ a b c d EB (1911).
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  5. ^ "Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  6. ^ Agassiz, G.R. 1913. Letters and recollections of Alexander Agassiz, with a sketch of his life and work, ed. by G.R. Agassiz. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 454 pages


  • "Alexander Dallas Bache (1806–1867)", Chambers's Encyclopædia, Vol. II, London: George Newnes, 1961, p. 35
  • Wikisource Baynes, T.S., ed. (1878), "Alexander Dallas Bache", Encyclopædia Britannica, 3 (9th ed.), New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, p. 196
  • Jansen, Axel (2011), Alexander Dallas Bache: Building the American Nation through Science and Education in the Nineteenth Century Book, New York / Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, p. 352, ISBN 978-3-593-39355-1
  • Slotten, Hugh Richard (1994), Patronage, Practice and the Culture of American Science: Alexander Dallas Bache and the U. S. Coast Survey, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-43395-9
  • J.C. (1868), "Obituary: Alexander Dallas Bache", Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 28 (1): 72–75, retrieved March 5, 2008
  • Reingold, Nathan (1970), "Alexander Dallas Bache", Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 1, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, pp. 363–365, ISBN 0-684-10114-9
  • Heyl, PR (1941), "The One Hundredth Anniversary Of The Establishment Of The Alexander Dallas Bache Magnetic Observatory", Science (published Mar 21, 1941), 93 (2412): 272–273, Bibcode:1941Sci....93..272H, doi:10.1126/science.93.2412.272, PMID 17834787
  • Odgers, Merle M. (1947), Alexander Dallas Bache: Scientist and Educator, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
  • Gould, Benjamin Apthorp (1868), An Address in Commemoration of Alexander Dallas Bache: Delivered August 6, 1868, Before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute Press


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911), "Bache, Alexander Dallas", Encyclopædia Britannica, 3 (11th ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 131–132

External links

  • Finding Aid to Alexander Dallas Bache Papers, 1821–1869
  • National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir
  • The Bache Years (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Central Library)
  • Alexander Dallas Bache: Leader of American Science and Second Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Government offices
Preceded by
Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler
Superintendent, United States Coast Survey
Succeeded by
Benjamin Peirce
Professional and academic associations
New office President of the National Academy of Sciences
1863 – 1867
Succeeded by
Joseph Henry
Retrieved from ""
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia :
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Alexander Dallas Bache"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA