"For the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge."
"The National Geographic Society is chartered in Washington D.C., as a nonprofit scientific and educational organization. Since 1890 the Society has supported more than 5,500 explorations and research projects, adding to knowledge of earth, sea and sky."
Founded in 1888 by a group of thirty three men in Washington D.C. The men met at the Cosmos Club which was located on Lafayette Square. The men discussed "the advisability of organizing a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.". What they would become is the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institution in the world.
Members of the forming group were geographers, explorers, teachers, cartographers, military officers and financiers. To quote one of the members of the original Society, we were the "first explorers of the Grand Canyon and the Yellowstone. Those who had carried the American Flag farthest north, who had measured the altitude of our famous mountains, traced the windings of our coasts and rivers, determined the distribution of flora and fauna, enlightened us in the customs of the aborigines, and marked out the path of storm and flood.
Its first president was Gardiner Greene Hubbard, a lawyer who also helped found a school for the deaf and promoted the experiments of one Alexander Graham Bell, his son in law. To quote Hubbard
"I am neither a scientific man, nor... a geographer. By my election you notify the public that the membership of our Society will not be confined to professional geographers, but will include that large number who, like myself, desire to promote special researches by others, and to diffuse the knowledge so gained, among men, so that we may all know more of the world upon which we live."
It published the first National Geographic nine months later with the following statement.
"The National Geographic Society has been organized to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge, and the publication of a Magazine has been determined upon as one means of accomplishing these purposes. As it is not intended to be simply the organ of the Society, its pages will be open to all persons interested in geography, in the hope that it may become a channel of intercommunication, stimulate geographic investigation and prove an acceptable medium for the publication of results."
Today the National Geographic Society has expanded its methods. They are responsible for the publication of:
National Geographic Magazine
On television, besides the many prime time specials, National Geographic is responsible for:
Explorer on MSNBC
National Geographic Channel