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Powell, John Wesley (1834–1902)

A CHILD OF America's mid-19th century western agricultural frontier and a celebrated explorer of the Grand Canyon, John Wesley Powell devoted his remarkable career as a scientist and, for a time, powerful U.S. bureaucrat, to the expansion of scientific work in the federal government. He focused on the survey and mapping sciences of geology, geography, and ethnology (i.e., the study of American Indian language and culture). Powell was director of the U.S. Geological Survey (1881–94), founding director of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology (1879–1902), and earlier, leader of the Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region (∼1869–79), known as the Powell Survey. In each of these offices, Powell expanded the reach of government-supported survey, mapping, and research projects, and in doing so, ...

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