This month marks the 125th anniversary of the National Geographic Society, highlighting its journey from a small scientific body created “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge” to one of the world’s largest educational and scientific organisations.

Founded in Washington D.C on January 13, 1888 by a group of 33 of the city’s scientific and intellectual leaders, the first issue of the magazine was published the same year as a modest-looking scientific brochure, featuring a scholarly report on: “The Classification of Geographic Forms by Genesis”.

Two years later the Society sponsored its first expedition — to explore and survey Mount St. Elias in Alaska. By 2012, the Society had funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects. Throughout its 125-year history the National Geographic magazine has been enchanting us with photographs and features from the furthest corners of the earth.

From the Society's expansive timeline, highlights include the excavation of Peru's Machu Picchu in 1912, the first flight over the South Pole in 1929, Apollo 11 astronauts carrying the National Geographic Society flag to the moon and a ground-breaking report on the discovery of 3.6 million-year-old footprints in Tanzania, believed to be from the slow-walking ancestors of modern man.

In celebration of the event, National Geographic is hosting a live Google+ event where you can hang out with great explorers on seven continents.

The Society has also released a collection of the most unforgettable moments from their history, including the excavation of ancient Egypt, a baby chimp's brush with mankind and a giant leap for Buzz Aldrin.

Take a look at our choice of some of the best photographs produced by the National Geographic Society:

1938 - EGYPT
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Three figures on camelback behold the pyramids of Giza.


LA VENTA, TABASCO. MEXICO
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Beginning in 1938, Matthew Stirling, chief of the Smithsonian Bureau of American Ethnology, led eight National Geographic-sponsored expeditions to Tabasco and Veracruz in Mexico. He uncovered 11 colossal stone heads, evidence of the ancient Olmec civilization that had lain buried for 15 centuries.


1964 - TANZANIA
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A touching moment between primatologist and National Geographic grantee Jane Goodall and young chimpanzee Flint at Tanzania’s Gombe Stream Reserve.


1969 - THE MOON
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Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, his visor reflecting Neil Armstrong and the lunar module Eagle. The Apollo 11 astronauts carried the National Geographic Society flag with them on their journey to the Moon.


COCOS ISLAND, COSTA RICA
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Marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala dives with a green turtle off Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Sala leads National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project, which aims to find, survey and help protect the last healthy and undisturbed places in the ocean.

Flick through more historical National Geographic photographs:

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  • BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA

    In a moss-draped rain forest in British Columbia, towering red cedars live a thousand years, and black bears have white coats. They are known to the local people as spirit bears.

  • UGANDA

    A lion climbs a tree to sleep, in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth Park.

  • ANTARCTICA

    An emperor penguin, outfitted with a Crittercam camera system designed by marine biologist and National Geographic staff member Greg Marshall, becomes an unwitting cameraman for a National Geographic documentary.

  • 1909 - ALASKA, UNITED STATES

    Washing his films in iceberg-choked seawater was an everyday chore for photographer Oscar D. Von Engeln during the summer months he spent on a National Geographic-sponsored expedition in Alaska.

  • 1995 - INDIA

    By setting off a camera trap, a female tiger captures her own image in Bandhavgarh National Park.

  • 1969 - THE MOON

    Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, his visor reflecting Neil Armstrong and the lunar module Eagle. The Apollo 11 astronauts carried the National Geographic Society flag with them on their journey to the Moon.

  • LA VENTA, TABASCO. MEXICO

    Beginning in 1938, Matthew Stirling, chief of the Smithsonian Bureau of American Ethnology, led eight National Geographic-sponsored expeditions to Tabasco and Veracruz in Mexico. He uncovered 11 colossal stone heads, evidence of the ancient Olmec civilization that had lain buried for 15 centuries.

  • 1938 - EGYPT

    Three figures on camelback behold the pyramids of Giza.

  • COCOS ISLAND, COSTA RICA

    Marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala dives with a green turtle off Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Sala leads National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project, which aims to find, survey and help protect the last healthy and undisturbed places in the ocean.

  • 1964 - TANZANIA

    A touching moment between primatologist and National Geographic grantee Jane Goodall and young chimpanzee Flint at Tanzania’s Gombe Stream Reserve.


Take a look at the winning photos from the recent 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest:

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  • Grand-Prize

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>The Explosion!</em> by Ashley Vincent <blockquote>"The subject's name is Busaba, a well cared for Indochinese Tigress whose home is at Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand. I had taken many portraits of Busaba previously and it was becoming more and more difficult to come up with an image that appeared any different to the others. Which is why I took to observing her more carefully during my visits in the hope of capturing something of a behavioural shot. The opportunity finally presented itself while watching Busaba enjoying her private pool then shaking herself dry. In all humility I have to say that Mother Nature smiled favourably on me that day!" - Ashley Vincent.</blockquote>

  • First Place for Places

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>The Matterhorn</em> by Nenad Saljic <blockquote>"The Matterhorn 4478 m at full moon." - Nenad Saljic</blockquote>

  • Viewers’ Choice for Nature

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Tender Moment</em> by Sanjeev Bhor <blockquote>"Everyday in mara starts with something new and different and day ends with memorable experiences with spectacular photographs . I was very lucky of sighting and photographing Malaika the name of female Cheetah and her cub . she is well known for its habit to jump on vehicles. She learned that from her mother Kike, and Kike from her mother Amber.Like her mother she is teaching lessons to her cub . Teaching lessons means addition of another moment for tourist . This is one of the tender moment between Malaika and her cub . I was very lucky to capture that moment." - Sanjeev Bhor</blockquote>

  • First Place for People

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Amongst the Scavengers</em> by Micah Albert <blockquote>"At the end of the day women are allowed to pick through the dumpsite." - Micah Albert</blockquote>

  • Viewers’ Choice for Places

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Iceberg Hunters</em> by Adam Coish <blockquote>"Chipping ice off an iceberg is a common way for the Inuit community to retrieve fresh drinking water while on the land. During a weekend long hunting trip, we came upon this majestic iceberg frozen in place. It was a perfect opportunity to grab enough ice and drinking water for the remainder of the trip." - Adam Coish</blockquote>

  • Viewers’ Choice for People

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Expedition Amundsen</em> by Kai-Otto Melau <blockquote>"A race that follows in the path of the famous explorer Roald Amundsen brings the contestants to the Hardangervidda Mountainplateu, Norway. 100km across the plateau, the exact same route Amundsen used to prepare for his South Pole expedition in 1911 is still used by explorers today. Amundsen did not manage to cross the plateau and had to turn back because of bad weather. He allegedly said that the attempt to cross Hardangervidda was just as dangerous and hard as the conquering of the South Pole. The group in the picture used the race as preparations for an attempt to cross Greenland." - Kai-Otto Melau</blockquote>

  • Honorable Mention

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Red Fox catching mouse under snow</em> by Micheal Eastman <blockquote>"With his exceptional hearing a red fox has targeted a mouse hidden under 2 feet of crusted snow. Springing high in the air he breaks through the crusted spring snow with his nose and his body is completely vertical as he grabs the mouse under the snow." - Micheal Eastman</blockquote>

  • Honorable Mention

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Chinese traditional dragon boat racing</em> by 关嘉城 <blockquote>"Dragon boating is a chinese traditional entertainment. As an acquatic sport to memorise qu yuan, a patriotic poet in ancient china, it is usually held in festivals, which can be traced back to two thousands years ago." - 关嘉城</blockquote>

  • Honorable Mention

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>East of Iceland</em> by Eric Guth <blockquote>"Glacial ice washes ashore after calving off the Breiamerkurjˆkull glacier on Iceland's eastern coast. During the waning light of summer this image was created over the course of a 4 minute exposure while the photographer backlit the grounded glacial ice with a headlamp for 2 of those 4 minutes." - Eric Guth</blockquote>

  • Honorable Mention

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Captive</em> by Wendell Phillips <blockquote>"Yayasan Galuh Rehabilitation Center is and impoverished mental health facility based in Bekasi, Indonesia that hosts over 250 patients. Most come from poor families no longer interested in managing their condition, or are unable. Some patients are homeless, deposited after being taken off streets by police The only medical treatment received is for skin conditions. No assessments, psychotherapy or psychiatric medications is available. Over one third of the patients are shackled in chains. These measures are implemented to those thought to be violent, uncontrolable and dangerous." - Wendell Phillips</blockquote>

  • Honorable Mention

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Eerie Eiffel </em>by Swari Wonowidjojo <blockquote>"The winter gloomy day worked to my advantage to create this eerie feeling of the famous landmark Eiffel tower." - Swari Wonowidjojo</blockquote>

  • Honorable Mention

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Predation up close and personal</em> by Fransisca Harlijanto <blockquote>"I was surrounded by thousands of fish that moved in synchrony because of the predation that was happening. It was an incredible experience." - Fransisca Harlijanto</blockquote>

  • Honorable Mention

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Ursus arctos horribilis</em> by Jason Ching <blockquote>"This photo of a wild, Alaskan, brown bear digging on a game trail was taken with a home made motion controlled triggering device hooked up to my DSLR. " - Jason Ching</blockquote>

  • Honorable Mention

    <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/">National Geographic Photo Contest 2012.</a> <em>Stilt Fishing</em> by ulrich lambert <blockquote>"Stilt fishing is a typical fishing technique only seen in Sri Lanka. The fishermen sit on a cross bar called a petta tied to a vertical pole planted into the coral reef. This long exposure shot shows how unstable their position is." - ulrich lambert </blockquote>


Milestones In National Geographic History


Jan. 13, 1888: Thirty-three founding members meet at the Cosmos Club, Washington, D.C., to create “a society for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge.”

October 1888: First issue of National Geographic magazine is sent to 200 charter members.

July 1890: National Geographic publishes its first photograph — a glimpse of Herald Island, Russia, taken from the deck of a ship.

1890-91: First National Geographic Society-sponsored expedition maps the Mount St. Elias region, Alaska and discovers Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak. By 2012, the Society has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects.

July 1906: Grosvenor publishes George Shiras III’s pioneering flash photographs of animals at night; two Society board members resign in disgust, claiming magazine is turning into a “picture book.”

1941: National Geographic Society opens its storehouse of photographs, maps and other cartographic data to President Roosevelt and the U.S. armed forces to aid war efforts. The following year, the Society makes a cabinet of National Geographic maps for Winston Churchill.

September 1959: Colour photographs begin to appear regularly on magazine cover.

1967: Dian Fossey begins long-term Society-funded study of mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

July 1969: Apollo 11 astronauts carry National Geographic Society flag to the moon.

April 1979: Mary Leakey reports discovery of 3.6 million-year-old footprints believed to be from the slow-walking ancestors of modern man, in the volcanic ash of a riverbed in Tanzania.

1984 : Undersea archaeology pioneer George F. Bass, supported by the Society, discovers most extensive collection of Bronze Age trade goods ever found beneath the sea in a 3,400-year-old shipwreck off southern Turkey.

September 1985: Results of R.M.S. Titanic discovery announced at Society by Robert D. Ballard.

June 1996: Society launches its website: www.nationalgeographic.com.

September 1997: National Geographic enters cable television market launching in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Australia. By 2012 National Geographic Channels reach 440 million subscribers in 171 countries in 38 languages.

April 1998: National Geographic produces its first large-format film, “Mysteries of Egypt.”

March 2002: National Geographic announces it has located Sharbat Gula, the “Afghan Girl,” who appeared on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic magazine. Her photograph becomes the most recognized in the magazine’s history.

March 2012: Explorer-in-residence, James Cameron, becomes first person to dive solo to the Mariana Trench as part of DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, National Geographic and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research and exploration.