The U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey began in 1807 when President Thomas Jefferson hand-picked Ferdinand Hassler as its first superintendent. Hassler’s fastidious expertise in geodetic and triangulation survey techniques were originally intended to guide mariners in and out of New York harbor. He confidently recognized its centrality and grounded the zero longitudinal baselines there.
Before his reassignment to the U.S. Coast Survey in 1832, he served as Head of National Standards of Weights and Measures. Although he did not resume command of the U.S. Coast Survey until the latter part of his career, it is perhaps his greatest accomplishment.