VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers


Alyson Foster

Alyson Foster works in the National Geographic Library where she purchases books for the Library’s collection and assists NG staff with finding research materials.

How a National Geographic Icon Took On the Cortés Trail

This month marks the anniversary of the fall of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan—modern-day Mexico City—to the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés in 1521.  Cortés’ journey from Veracruz to Tenochtitlan was a winding route through tropical and mountainous terrain that took the Spaniards across more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) and changed the course of history. Over…

10 Ways National Geographic Has Changed the World

National Geographic magazine’s 125th anniversary issue is out on newsstands this month. As we take a look back at our legacy so far, here are just a few of the ways that National Geographic has changed the world.

National Geographic and the National Parks: A Brief History

April 22nd through April 28th is National Park Week. It’s a celebration of the more than 400 national parks in the U.S., including canyons, forests, beaches, historic houses and battlefields. While National Geographic can’t take any credit for these spectacular places, we do take pride in our long-standing connection to the national parks, a connection that stretches back all the way to the 1800s – before either the National Geographic Society or the National Park Service even existed.

Scientists Create “Nano-Suits” That Allow Bugs to Survive in A Vacuum

Scientists at the Hamamatsu University School of Medicine in Japan have come up with a special kind of spacesuit that can help keep insects alive in a vacuum. Unlike the gear astronauts wear, the nano-suit — as scientists are calling it — is more than 1,000 times thinner than a human hair and it’s made using electrons.

The Society and Washington’s Flowering Cherry Trees

Each spring, as the Japanese cherry trees bloom in Potomac Park and around the Tidal Basin, something tugs at our memories. Didn’t the National Geographic Society have something to do with getting those trees here? Wasn’t Eliza Scidmore, the first woman on our board of trustees, somehow involved?

Like People, Bees Learn From Watching One Another

Bumblebees may not have the large, highly-developed brains that certain other animals possess – us highly intelligent primates, for example – but they can perform surprisingly sophisticated tasks, like using logic and picking up cues from their fellow bees.

Scientists Link Urban Noise To Decline In City Songbirds

It’s a fact: cities are loud. All that noise can have a deleterious effect on our lives, but humans aren’t the only ones negatively impacted by urban noise. Scientists have linked high levels of urban noise to a decline in songbird diversity.

Declining Forests In The Eastern United States As Seen From Space

Forests in the eastern United States have become less green over the past decade. That’s what scientists at NASA have concluded after analyzing a series of satellite images compiled between 2000 and 2010.

Rock Hyrax Urine Offers Clues About Climate Change

What can the rock hyrax – or, more specifically, the rock hyrax’s pee – tell us about climate change? More than you might think.

Scientists Discover How Bacteria Changes Ions Into Gold

Bacteria with the ability to change ions into solid gold? This scenario may sound like a biochemist’s version of a fairy tale, but it’s real and scientists at McMaster University have just figured out how the process works.

Urban Weather: How Cities May Be Changing the Climate

Air pollution. Light pollution. Radical changes to local ecosystems. The profound environmental impact of cities is a popular topic among scientists these days. Now it appears that cities may actually be changing the weather — and the effects are being felt not just in urban areas, but in places thousands of miles away from major metropolises.

Cool Math 101: Physicists Use Fluid Dynamics To Study Penguin Huddles

What do the members of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics discuss during their annual meetings? Math, usually. Lots of math. But this week they’ll also be talking about something a little different: penguins.

Henry Henshaw: The National Geographic Founder Who Helped Save America’s Birds

A friend of Henry Henshaw’s described him as having an “innate shyness and personal dignity,” along with a “ready wit and a whimsical sense of humor [that] gave him a most attractive personality.” Along with his quiet charm, the ornithologist was a passionate advocate for America’s birds. When he resigned as Chief of the Biological Survey in 1916, he left as his legacy not only the Migratory Bird Bill, but also the Migratory Bird Treaty with Great Britain, the mother of all subsequent pieces of international conservation legislation. He also left nearly 70 bird sanctuaries.

The Other Powell: An Advocate for Geography Education

National Geographic founder William B. Powell may not have had the colorful exuberance of his famous brother, John Wesley, but he was not by any means a timid man. On the contrary, he was a passionate and fierce critic of public and secondary school education. His reformist zeal prompted him to make sweeping changes in outmoded teaching methods and curricula garnered him both acclaim and disapproval. But his legacy to the Society was an early and insistent emphasis on the importance of education, including geography education, in America’s classrooms

Almon Thompson: The Self-Taught Cartographer Who Helped Found National Geographic

Almon Thompson didn’t set out to become an explorer. When he began his career in 1864, after a brief stint as a soldier in the Civil War, it was as a school superintendent in Illinois. It wasn’t until his famous brother-in-law, John Wesley Powell, began inviting him along on his expeditions to the Rocky Mountains that Thompson found his true calling. Diligent and imperturbable, Thompson eventually became a cartographer who was not deterred by gold rushes, Indian scares, and other distractions. He was, as one historian put it, “a man who liked to get things done.”