Mapping America is Never-Ending Task for USGS

by Morris M. Thompson, (F.ASCE), Research Engr.; U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Va.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1979, Vol. 49, Issue 2, Pg. 77-81

Document Type: Feature article


For its first topographic surveys, begun in 1879, USGS measured distances by counting revolutions of a wheel, ran traverses by chain and compass, and used a barometer to determine elevations. Between 1886 and 1908, inventions including the telescopic alidade led to improved plane-table surveying and mapping to increase speed and accuracy. Beginning in 1934 the mapping of the entire Tennessee River basin using aerial photography led to the gradual replacement of plane-table mapping in the field by photogrammetric mapping in the office. And present-day photogrammetry may soon go the way of the plane table, because high-technology methods, including inertial survey and satellite surveying, are just over the horizon.

Subject Headings: Mapping | Topographic surveys | Surveying methods | Photogrammetry | Geodetic surveys | Federal government | Aerial surveys

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