National Geographic

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National Geographic
National Geographic Magazine March 2017 Cover.jpg
March 2017 cover of National Geographic
Editor Susan Goldberg [1]
Categories Geography, History, Nature, Science
Total circulation
(June 2016)
6.1 million (global) [2]
First issueSeptember 22, 1888;132 years ago (1888-09-22) [3]
CountryUnited States
Based in Washington, D.C. [4]
LanguageEnglish and various other languages
ISSN 0027-9358
OCLC 643483454

National Geographic (formerly the National Geographic Magazine and branded also as NAT GEO) is the official magazine of the National Geographic Society. It has been published continuously since its first issue in 1888, nine months after the Society itself was founded. It primarily contains articles about science, geography, history, and world culture. The magazine is known for its thick square-bound glossy format with a yellow rectangular border and its extensive use of dramatic photographs. Controlling interest in the magazine has been held by The Walt Disney Company since 2019.


The magazine is published monthly, and additional map supplements are also included with subscriptions. It is available in a traditional printed edition and through an interactive online edition.

As of 2015, the magazine was circulated worldwide in nearly 40 local-language editions and had a global circulation of approximately 6.5 million per month according to data published by The Washington Post (down from about 12 million in the late 1980s) or 6.7 million according to National Geographic. This includes a US circulation of 3.5 million. [5] [6]


The current Editor-in-Chief of the National Geographic magazine is Susan Goldberg. [1] Goldberg is also Editorial Director for National Geographic Partners, overseeing the print and digital expression of National Geographic’s editorial content across its media platforms including National Geographic magazine. She is responsible for the news, National Geographic Traveler magazine, National Geographic History magazine, and maps. She is also responsible for all the editorial digital content with the exception of National Geographic Books and Kids. Goldberg reports to Gary Knell, CEO of National Geographic Partners.[ citation needed ]


January 1915 cover of The National Geographic Magazine 1915NatGeog.jpg
January 1915 cover of The National Geographic Magazine

The first issue of the National Geographic Magazine was published on September 22, 1888, nine months after the Society was founded. It was initially a scholarly journal sent to 165 charter members and currently it reaches the hands of 40 million people each month. [7] Starting with its January 1905 publication of several full-page pictures of Tibet in 1900–01, the magazine changed from being a text-oriented publication closer to a scientific journal to featuring extensive pictorial content, and became well known for this style. The June 1985 cover portrait of the presumed to be 12-year-old Afghan girl Sharbat Gula, shot by photographer Steve McCurry, became one of the magazine's most recognizable images.[ citation needed ]

National Geographic Kids , the children's version of the magazine, was launched in 1975 under the name National Geographic World. From the 1970s through about 2010, the magazine was printed in Corinth, Mississippi, by private printers until that plant was finally closed.[ citation needed ]

In the late 1990s, the magazine began publishing The Complete National Geographic, a digital compilation of all the past issues of the magazine. It was then sued over copyright of the magazine as a collective work in Greenberg v. National Geographic and other cases, and temporarily withdrew the availability of the compilation. The magazine eventually prevailed in the dispute, and in July 2009 it resumed publishing a compilation containing all issues through December 2008. The compilation was later updated to make more recent issues available, and the archive and digital edition of the magazine are available online to the magazine's subscribers.[ citation needed ]

In September 2015, the National Geographic Society moved the magazine to a new partnership, National Geographic Partners, in which 21st Century Fox held a 73% controlling interest. [8]

In December 2017, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, including the latter's interest in National Geographic Partners. [9] NG Media publishing unit was operationally transferred into Disney Publishing Worldwide. [10]


The magazine had a single "editor" from 1888–1920. From 1920–1967, the chief editorship was held by the president of the National Geographic Society. Since 1967, the magazine has been overseen by its own "editor" and/or "editor-in-chief". The list of editors-in-chief includes three generations of the Grosvenor family between 1903 and 1980.


During the Cold War, the magazine committed itself to presenting a balanced view of the physical and human geography of nations beyond the Iron Curtain. The magazine printed articles on Berlin, de-occupied Austria, the Soviet Union, and Communist China that deliberately downplayed politics to focus on culture. In its coverage of the Space Race, National Geographic focused on the scientific achievement while largely avoiding reference to the race's connection to nuclear arms buildup. There were also many articles in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s about the individual states and their resources, along with supplement maps of each state. Many of these articles were written by longtime staff such as Frederick Simpich. [13] There were also articles about biology and science topics.[ citation needed ]

In later years[ when? ], articles became outspoken on issues such as environmental issues, deforestation, chemical pollution, global warming, and endangered species.[ citation needed ] Series of articles were included focusing on the history and varied uses of specific products such as a single metal, gem, food crop, or agricultural product, or an archaeological discovery. Occasionally an entire month's issue would be devoted to a single country, past civilization, a natural resource whose future is endangered, or other theme. In recent decades, the National Geographic Society has unveiled other magazines with different focuses. Whereas in the past, the magazine featured lengthy expositions, recent issues have shorter articles.[ citation needed ]


Color photograph of the Taj Mahal. Source: The National Geographic Magazine, March 1921 Taj Mahal 1921.JPG
Color photograph of the Taj Mahal. Source: The National Geographic Magazine, March 1921

In addition to being well known for articles about scenery, history, and the most distant corners of the world, the magazine has been recognized for its book-like quality and its standard of photography. It was during the tenure of Society President Alexander Graham Bell and editor Gilbert H. Grosvenor (GHG) that the significance of illustration was first emphasized, in spite of criticism from some of the Board of Managers who considered the many illustrations an indicator of an “unscientific” conception of geography. By 1910, photographs had become the magazine’s trademark and Grosvenor was constantly on the search for "dynamical pictures" as Graham Bell called them, particularly those that provided a sense of motion in a still image. In 1915, GHG began building the group of staff photographers and providing them with advanced tools including the latest darkroom. [14]

The magazine began to feature some pages of color photography in the early 1930s, when this technology was still in its early development. During the mid-1930s, Luis Marden (1913–2003), a writer and photographer for National Geographic, convinced the magazine to allow its photographers to use the so-called "miniature" 35 mm Leica cameras loaded with Kodachrome film over bulkier cameras with heavy glass plates that required the use of tripods. [15] In 1959, the magazine started publishing small photographs on its covers, later becoming larger photographs. National Geographic photography quickly shifted to digital photography for both its printed magazine and its website. In subsequent years, the cover, while keeping its yellow border, shed its oak leaf trim and bare table of contents, to allow for a full page photograph taken for one of the month's articles. Issues of National Geographic are often kept by subscribers for years and re-sold at thrift stores as collectibles. The standard for photography has remained high over the subsequent decades and the magazine is still illustrated with some of the highest-quality photojournalism in the world. [16] In 2006, National Geographic began an international photography competition, with over eighteen countries participating. [17]

In conservative Muslim countries like Iran and Malaysia, photographs featuring topless or scantily clad members of primitive tribal societies are often blacked out; buyers and subscribers often complain that this practice decreases the artistic value of the photographs for which National Geographic is world-renowned.[ citation needed ]

Map supplements

Supplementing the articles, the magazine sometimes provides maps of the regions visited.[ citation needed ]

National Geographic Maps (originally the Cartographic Division) became a division of the National Geographic Society in 1915. The first supplement map, which appeared in the May 1918 issue of the magazine, titled The Western Theatre of War, served as a reference for overseas military personnel and soldiers' families alike. [18] On some occasions, the Society's map archives have been used by the United States government in instances where its own cartographic resources were limited. [19] President Franklin D. Roosevelt's White House map room was filled with National Geographic maps. A National Geographic map of Europe is featured in the displays of the Winston Churchill museum in London showing Churchill's markings at the Yalta Conference where the Allied leaders divided post-war Europe.[ citation needed ]

In 2001, National Geographic released an eight-CD-ROM set containing all its maps from 1888 to December 2000. Printed versions are also available from the National Geographic website. [20]

Language editions

First Ukrainian National Geographic magazine presentation FirstUkrNatGeo IMGP9989-1.jpg
First Ukrainian National Geographic magazine presentation
National Geographic English editions collection NationalGeographicLibrary.jpg
National Geographic English editions collection

In April 1995, National Geographic began publishing in Japanese, its first local language edition. [21] The magazine is currently published in 35 local editions around the world.

LanguageWebsiteEditor-in-chiefFirst issue
English (United States) Susan GoldbergOctober 1888
Arabic (United Arab Emirates) Alsaad Omar AlmenhalyOctober 2010
Bulgarian Krassimir DrumevNovember 2005
Chinese (Chinese mainland) Bin WangJuly 2007
Chinese (Taiwan) Yungshih LeeJanuary 2001
Croatian Hrvoje PrćićNovember 2003
Czech Kateřina FejkováOctober 2002
Danish Karen GunnSeptember 2000
Dutch (Netherlands/Belgium) Arno KantelbergOctober 2000
English (India) Niloufer Venkatraman
Estonian Erkki PeetsaluOctober 2011
Finnish Karen GunnJanuary 2001
French Jean-Pierre VrignaudOctober 1999
Georgian Natia KhuluzauriOctober 2012
German Florian GlessOctober 1999
Hungarian Tamás VitrayMarch 2003
Hebrew Daphne RazJune 1998
Hebrew (Orthodox) April 2007
Indonesian Didi Kaspi KasimApril 2005
Italian Marco CattaneoFebruary 1998
Japanese Shigeo OtsukaApril 1995
Kazakh Yerkin ZhakipovFebruary 2016
Korean (South Korea) Junemo KimJanuary 2000
Lithuanian Frederikas JansonasOctober 2009
Norwegian Karen GunnSeptember 2000
Polish Agnieszka FranusOctober 1999
Portuguese (Portugal) Gonçalo PereiraApril 2001
Romanian Cătălin GruiaMay 2003
Russian Alexander GrekOctober 2003
Serbian Igor RillNovember 2006
Slovene Marija JavornikApril 2006
Spanish (Latin America) Claudia Muzzi TurullolsNovember 1997
Spanish (Spain) Josep CabelloOctober 1997
Swedish Karen GunnSeptember 2000
Thai Kowit PhadungruangkijAugust 2001
Turkish Nesibe BatMay 2001

[ citation needed ]

The following local-language editions have been discontinued:

LanguageWebsiteFirst issueLast issueNumber of issues
Mongolian October 2012June 201421
Greek October 1998December 2014194
Ukrainian April 2013January 201521
Azerbaijani September 2014December 201516
Latvian October 2012March 201642
Farsi (Iran) October 2012September 201869
Portuguese (Brazil) May 2000November 2019235

[ citation needed ]

In association with Trends Publications in Beijing and IDG Asia, National Geographic has been authorized for "copyright cooperation" in China to publish the yellow border magazine, which launched with the July 2007 issue of the magazine with an event in Beijing on July 10, 2007 and another event on December 6, 2007 in Beijing also celebrating the 29th anniversary of normalization of U.S.–China relations featuring former President Jimmy Carter. The mainland China version is one of the two local-language editions that bump the National Geographic logo off its header in favor of a local-language logo; the other one is the Persian version published under the name Gita Nama.[ citation needed ]

Worldwide editions are sold on newsstands in addition to regular subscriptions. In several countries, such as Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Turkey and Ukraine National Geographic paved the way for a subscription model in addition to traditional newsstand sales.[ citation needed ]In the United States, newsstand sales began in 1998; previously, membership in the National Geographic Society was the only way to receive the magazine.[ citation needed ]


On May 1, 2008, National Geographic won three National Magazine Awards—an award solely for its written content—in the reporting category for an article by Peter Hessler on the Chinese economy; an award in the photojournalism category for work by John Stanmeyer on malaria in the Third World; and a prestigious award for general excellence. [22]

Between 1980 and 2011 the magazine has won a total of 24 National Magazine Awards. [23]

In May 2006, 2007, and 2011 National Geographic magazine won the American Society of Magazine Editors' General Excellence Award in the over two million circulation category. In 2010, National Geographic Magazine received the top ASME awards for photojournalism and essay. In 2011, National Geographic Magazine received the top-award from ASME—the Magazine of the Year Award.

In April 2014, National Geographic received the National Magazine Award ("Ellie") for best tablet edition for its multimedia presentation of Robert Draper's story "The Last Chase," about the final days of a tornado researcher who was killed in the line of duty. [24]

In February 2017, National Geographic received the National Magazine Award ("Ellie") for best website. [25] National Geographic won the 2020 Webby Award for News & Magazines in the category Apps, Mobile & Voice. [26] National Geographic won the 2020 Webby Award and Webby People’s Voice Award for Magazine in the category Web. [26]


On the magazine's February 1982 cover, the pyramids of Giza were altered, resulting in the first major scandal of the digital photography age and contributing to photography's "waning credibility". [27]

The cover of the October 1988 issue featured a photo of a large ivory male portrait whose authenticity, particularly the alleged Ice Age provenance, has been questioned. [28]

In 1999, the magazine was embroiled in the Archaeoraptor scandal, in which it purported to have a fossil linking birds to dinosaurs. The fossil was a forgery.[ citation needed ]

In 2010, the magazine's Your Shot competition was awarded to William Lascelles for photography featuring a dog with fighter jets over its shoulder. The picture turned out to be a fraud. [29]

In March 2018, the editor of National Geographic, Susan Goldberg said that historically the magazine's coverage of people around the world had been racist. Goldberg argued that the magazine ignored non-white Americans and showed different groups as exotic, thereby promoting racial clichés. [30]

On May 31, 2020, a Content ID bot filed a false copyright claim on YouTube on behalf of National Geographic against a public domain NASA video of the launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission which was also distributed by National Geographic on YouTube. The video was restored the following day on June 1. [31]

See also

Related Research Articles

National Geographic Society American non-profit scientific and educational institution

The National Geographic Society (NGS), headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational organizations in the world. Founded in 1888, its interests include geography, archaeology, and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical conservation, and the study of world culture and history. The National Geographic Society's logo is a yellow portrait frame—rectangular in shape—which appears on the margins surrounding the front covers of its magazines and as its television channel logo. Through National Geographic Partners, the Society operates the magazine, TV channels, a website, worldwide events, and other media operations.

Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography by complying with a rigid ethical framework which demands that the work be both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. Photojournalists create pictures that contribute to the news media, and help communities connect with one other. Photojournalists must be well informed and knowledgeable about events happening right outside their door. They deliver news in a creative format that is not only informative, but also entertaining.

International Center of Photography photography museum, school and research center in Manhattan, New York City

The International Center of Photography (ICP), in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City, consists of a museum for photography and visual culture and a school offering an array of educational courses and programming. ICP's photographic collection, reading room, and archives are at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, New Jersey. The organization was founded by Cornell Capa in 1974.

Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor American photojournalist and magazine editor

Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, father of photojournalism, was the first full-time editor of National Geographic (1899–1954). Grosvenor is credited with having built the magazine into the iconic publication that it is today.

Mary Ellen Mark American photographer

Mary Ellen Mark was an American photographer known for her photojournalism, documentary photography, portraiture, and advertising photography. She photographed people who were "away from mainstream society and toward its more interesting, often troubled fringes".

Melville Bell Grosvenor American magazine editor

Melville Bell Grosvenor was the president of the National Geographic Society and editor of The National Geographic Magazine from 1957 to 1967. He was the grandson of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

Marcus Bleasdale is a British photojournalist, born in the UK to an Irish family.

John Stanmeyer American photojournalist

John Stanmeyer, is an American photojournalist based in Otis, Massachusetts. He is one of the founders of VII Photo Agency. Stanmeyer has received the World Press Photo of the Year, Robert Capa Gold Medal, Magazine Photographer of the Year from Pictures of the Year International, and a National Magazine Award for Photojournalism.

Chris Johns is a photographer who was the editor-in-chief for National Geographic Magazine from January 2005 to April 2014. After a reorganization, in April 2014, Johns was named chief content officer of National Geographic Society. He spent many years in Africa for the magazine and is the first photographer to have been named its editor-in-chief. He started his journalism career at daily newspapers.

National Geographic Image Collection, a division of National Geographic Partners (NGP) headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States, is National Geographic's photography, video, and talent agency representing award-winning content creators with over 10 million images and works of art.

Edwin S. Grosvenor American writer and editor

Edwin S. Grosvenor is a writer, photographer, and President and Editor-in-Chief of American Heritage. He has published nine books and is best known for writing on his great-grandfather, Alexander Graham Bell, including two books and several magazine articles. Early in his career, Grosvenor worked as a freelance photographer for National Geographic, completing 23 assignments. He has been interviewed on History Channel, CBS News Sunday Morning, AARP Radio, AP Radio, CBC, NBC Radio Network, NPR, and Voice of America, and has lectured at the Smithsonian Institution, Boston Museum of Science, and other venues.

John Godfrey Morris was an American picture editor, author and journalist, and an important figure in the history of photojournalism.

Grosvenor is a surname derived from Hugh Le Grand Veneur, a member of a Norman French family that aided William the Conqueror in 1066. "Le Grand Veneur" literally means "the Master Huntsman" in French, an elevated title in William's 11th-century French court. Initially, Hugh was called Hugh Lupus. Lupus was overweight, and his townsmen gradually changed the appellation from "Le Grand Veneur", "the Master Huntsman," to "Le Gros Veneur", "the Fat Huntsman", and Hugh wore the epithet with pride.

William DeKay is a freelance Canadian photojournalist.

Edwin A. Grosvenor Author, professor of history

Edwin Augustus Grosvenor was a historian, author, chairman of the history department at Amherst College, and president of the national organization of Phi Beta Kappa societies from 1907 to 1919. Grosvenor was called "one of the most cosmopolitan of Americans" by author and abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson. His son, Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, was the first employee and longtime editor of National Geographic Magazine.

Michael "Nick" Nichols is an American journalist, photographer and a founder of the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia. His biography, A Wild Life, was written by Melissa Harris and published by Aperture.

Amy Toensing is an American photojournalist who is known for her intimate essays about the lives of ordinary people.

John Oliver La Gorce American writer and explorer

John Oliver La Gorce (1880–1959) was an American writer and explorer known for his work in the National Geographic Society. He served as Associate Editor of the Society from 1905 to 1922, Vice President from 1922 to 1954, and President from 1954 to 1957, before retiring at the age of 77.

Mount Grosvenor mountain in Alaska, U.S.A

Mount Grosvenor is a 5,540-foot (1,689 m) elevation glaciated summit located 39 mi (63 km) west of Valdez in the Chugach Mountains of the U.S. state of Alaska, on land managed by Chugach National Forest. Although modest in elevation, relief is significant since the mountain rises from tidewater at Unakwik Inlet of Prince William Sound in approximately three miles. The mountain's name was applied in 1910 by Lawrence Martin, and officially adopted by the United States Geological Survey. This peak's name honors Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor (1875–1966), President of the National Geographic Society, father of photojournalism, and the first full-time editor of National Geographic magazine.

Mount Grosvenor (Alaska Range)

Mount Grosvenor is an 8,400+ ft mountain summit located in the Alaska Range, in Denali National Park and Preserve, in Alaska, United States. It is situated on the west side of the Ruth Gorge, 0.87 mi (1 km) northwest of Mount Church and 0.54 mi (1 km) south of Mt. Johnson. Its nearest higher peak is Mount Wake, 1.32 miles (2.12 km) to the northwest. Despite its relatively low elevation, it is notable for its east face with over 4,000 feet of vertical sheer granite. The mountain was named by famed explorer Dr. Frederick Cook who claimed the first ascent of Mount McKinley in 1906, but was later disproved. This peak's unofficial name honors Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor (1875–1966), President of the National Geographic Society, father of photojournalism, and the first full-time editor of National Geographic magazine. The first ascent of the peak was made in 1979 by Gary Bocarde, Charlie Head, John Lee, and Jon Thomas.


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Further reading