In 1869 Powell a Civil War hero
who lost his arm at the battle of Shiloh set off into the unknown. He would be the first white man to run the
Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
It must have been a fearsome prospect.
Back in 1869 the river ran wild and free, unfettered by damns that
drained its ferocious power. The rapids
deep below the canyon walls would have roared, the sound carrying back to the
expedition as a challenge. Powell’s goal
was to explore the Canyon and map this last uncharted bit of the west. It is an amazing journey.
About the Author
John Wesley Powell completed his famous expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1869. But his life as one of America's great men of science was only just beginning. As an Indian commissioner, he became a student of the Paiute and Ute tribes, an interest that led in 1879 to the birth of the Smithsonian's Bureau of Ethnology, where he was director for 23 years. That same year he would be instrumental in the founding of the US Geological Survey, an agency which he would head just two years later. At 47 he was perhaps the most powerful and influential scientist in America. His ideas for harnessing water in the West inspired the birth of the Bureau of Reclamation and, in 1888, he joined 32 scientists and prominent Washingtonians to establish the National Geographic Society. After his death in 1902 at the age of 68, he continued to influence government science: He donated his brain to research. It's preserved today at the Smithsonian Institution.