Alexander Dallas Bache
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Alexander Dallas Bache

Alexander Dallas Bache
Alexander Dalls Bache pers0117.jpg
6th Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey

Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler
Benjamin Peirce
1st President of the National Academy of Sciences

Joseph Henry
Personal details
Born(1806-07-19)July 19, 1806
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
United States
DiedFebruary 17, 1867(1867-02-17) (aged 60)
Newport, Rhode Island,
United States
Resting placeCongressional Cemetery
Spouse(s)Nancy Clark Fowler
Alma materUS Military Academy
Known forcoastal mapping project
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity 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

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 adopted one son, Henry Wood Bache (1839-November 7, 1878, at Bristol on Long Island, New York).[7]


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.[8]

Loma Prieta peak in the Santa Cruz mountains once bore his name - Mount Bache. The name is no longer in use. [9]

A K-8 public elementary school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Bache-Martin School) has its 5th-8th grade building named after him.[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f EB (1878).
  2. ^ Chambers 1961.
  3. ^ a b c d EB (1911).
  4. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2021.
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2011.
  6. ^ "Former RSE Fellows 1783-2002" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 28, 2008. Retrieved 2010.
  7. ^ "Henry Wood Bache". Retrieved 2021.
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ Brewer, William Henry. "Up and Down California in 1860-1864; The Journal of William H. Brewer". Yosemite Online. Retrieved 2019.
  10. ^ "Bache-Martin School - The School District of Philadelphia".



External links

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

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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