"In human progress within the present century there has been no greater marvel than the operations of the Coastal Survey..."
- Harper's Monthly, March, 1879
The precise system of measurements provided today by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey originated with an act of Congress under the administration of Thomas Jefferson in 1807 that funded work on "an accurate chart" of America's coastal waters. Intended to aid sea-going commerce, the first work on this project, carried out in 1816 and 1817, helped establish a complex grid of geodetic reference points on which much of our land- and sea-based navigation now depends.
Directed by Swiss-born mathematician and astronomer Ferdinand Hassler, the measurements taken by the Coastal Survey, as it was then known, followed a plan of organization that continues to serve as the foundation for the activities of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey today. A key reference point located in the New Jersey township of Cranetown, used to map the harbor waters of New York City, was designated an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1986 to honor the pioneering work of Ferdinand Hassler and the subsequent achievements of early American surveyors.