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Missions of the Corps of Discovery and the U.S. Geological Survey

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States

Thomas Jefferson
third president of the United States
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
[LC-USZ62-117117 DLC]

President Thomas Jefferson's Instructions to Captain Meriwether Lewis


. . . . The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by it's course & communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.

Beginning at the mouth of the Missouri, you will take observations of latitude & longitude, at all remarkable points on the river, & especially at the mouths of rivers, at rapids, at islands & other places & objects distinguished by such natural marks & characters of a durable kind, as that they may with certainty be recognized hereafter. the courses of the river between these points of observation may be supplied by the compass, the log-line & by time, corrected by the observations themselves. the variations of the compass too, in different places, should be noticed.

. . . . Your observations are to be taken with great pains & accuracy, to be entered distinctly, & intelligibly for others as well as yourself, to comprehend all the elements necessary. . . .

Other object worthy of notice will be the soil & face of the country, it's growth & vegetable productions; especially those not of the U. S. the animals of the country generally, & especially those not known in the U. S. the remains and accounts of any which may deemed rare or extinct; the mineral productions of every kind; but more particularly metals, limestone, pit coal & salpetre; salines & mineral waters, noting the temperature of the last, & such circumstances as may indicate their character. Volcanic appearances. climate as characterized by the thermometer, by the proportion of rainy, cloudy & clear days, by lightening, hail, snow, ice, by the access & recess of frost, by the winds prevailing at different seasons, the dates at which particular plants put forth or lose their flowers, or leaf, times of appearance of particular birds, reptiles or insects.

. . . . Given under my hand at the city of Washington, this 20th day of June 1803.

Th. Jefferson
Pr. U S. of America

The Mission of the U.S. Geological Survey

The USGS serves the Nation by providing reliable scientific information to:

(1) describe and understand the Earth;

(2) minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters;

(3) manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and

(4) enhance and protect our quality of life.

Our mission is very similar to that of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery. We participate in many projects that are continuations of those begun by Lewis and Clark, such as:

-- systematically collecting and analyzing data to evaluate the quantity, quality, and use of the Nation's water resources and providing results of these investigations to the public;

-- conducting water-resources appraisals describing the occurrence, availability, and physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of surface and ground water;

-- documenting, analyzing, and modeling the character of past and present environments and the geological, biological, hydrological, and geochemical processes involved in environmental change;

-- developing scientific and statistically reliable methods and protocols to assess the status and trends of the Nation's biological resources;

-- developing and implementing technologies needed to synthesize, analyze, and disseminate biological and ecological information; and

-- ensuring the production and availability of basic cartographic and geographic spatial data of the country.


DeVoto, Bernard, ed., 1953, The Journals of Lewis and Clark: New York, Mariner Books Houghton Mifflin Company, 504 p.

Jefferson, Thomas, 20 June 1803, Instructions to Captain Lewis, A Hypertext on American History from the colonial period until Modern Times: Letters of Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826: accessed July 12, 2001, at URL

Stuart, Gilbert, 1828(?), Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States: [LC-USZ62-117117 DLC], By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present: accessed July 12, 2001, at URL

U.S. Geological Survey, 1997, rev. 1999, Strategic Plan for the National Mapping Division of the U.S. Geological Survey: accessed August 10, 2001, at URL

U.S. Geological Survey, 2001, Global Change Research: Earth Surface Dynamics: accessed August 10, 2001, at URL

U.S. Geological Survey, 2001, Mission of the Water Resources Division: accessed July 12, 2001, at URL

U.S. Geological Survey, 2001, U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources: Mission Statement: accessed August 10, 2001, at URL

U.S. Geological Survey, 2001, U.S. Geological Survey strategic plan, Mission: accessed June 25, 2001, at URL

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