Alexander Dallas Bache

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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 mapping of the United States coastline.



Alexander Bache was born in Philadelphia, the son of Richard Bache, Jr., and Sophia Burrell Dallas, nephew of George M. Dallas, and great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin. After graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1825, he acted as assistant professor there for some time. As a lieutenant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, he was engaged for a short time in the erection of coastal fortifications, including Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island. Bache resigned from the Army on June 1, 1829.

Bache spent the years 1836 to 1838 in Europe on behalf of the trustees of what became Girard College in 1848. Abroad, he examined European systems of education and, on his return, published a valuable report. 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. He occupied the post of professor of natural philosophy and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania from 1828 to 1841 and again from 1842 to 1843.

He married on September 30, 1838 at Newport, Rhode Island, Nancy Clark Fowler. She was born in Newport, Rhode Island, and died on January 13, 1870 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was his associate in the preparation of much of his published material.

They were the parents of one son, Henry Wood Bache, born in 1839 and died on November 7, 1878 at Bristol, Long Island, New York.

In 1843, on the death of Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, Bache was appointed superintendent of the United States coast survey. 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 out of the whole coast by a skillful division of labor and the erection of numerous observing stations. In addition, magnetic and meteorological data was collected. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 15 March 1858,[1] and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society on 24 May 1860.

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