DEWITT CLINTON :: Governor of New York 1817-1822 and 1825-1828
DeWitt Clinton, a statesman and an amateur naturalist, recognized there was a severe lack of information on New York's natural resources as he began promoting the development of the Erie Canal. To garner public support to conduct a geological survey he authored a series of newspaper articles in the Albany Register under the pseudonym "Hibernicus" pleading for better knowledge of the State's resources.
As governor, Clinton recruited geologist Amos Eaton in 1818 to present a series of lectures to the Legislature on the importance and need for natural resource surveys.
JOHN ADAMS DIX :: Secretary of State 1833-1839
In 1836, John Adams Dix, New York Secretary of State (1833–1839), submitted a report to the Legislature outlining the importance of a survey. Dix's detailed report highlighted two major benefits for the State of New York. First, it would encourage the exploitation of mineral and other resources; second, it would add to the body of scientific knowledge. The legislature responded positively and, after almost 20 years of delay, appropriated $104,000 to "make an accurate and complete geological survey of this state, which shall be accompanied with proper maps and diagrams, and furnish a full and scientific description of its rocks, soils, and minerals, and of its botanical and zoological productions, together with specimens of the same."
JOHN ADAMS DIX
AMOS EATON :: Geologist
In 1820, Amos Eaton was employed by Stephen Van Rensselaer, president of the Agricultural Society of New York, to produce A Geological Survey of the County of Albany which included geological and agricultural surveys along the route of the Erie Canal. These published surveys were highly regarded in the field of American geology and the 1820's became
known as the "Eatonian era."
In 1824, Eaton co-founded the Rensselaer School (now known as RPI), where he trained Ebenezer Emmons, James Hall, and Asa Fitch—all prominent figures in the Geological and Natural History Survey and the early history of the Museum.
WILLIAM MARCY :: Governor of New York 1833-1838
Governor Marcy was instrumental in influencing legislature to support the Survey. On January 5, 1836 in his annual message to legislature, Marcy openly endorsed the project, emphasizing its potential to boost the State's economy should valuable natural resources be uncovered. Once the survey was officially approved, Legislature made Marcy responsible for appointing the team of scientists. Fortunately, Marcy took this responsibilty seriously, reading Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning and Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology to help make informed decisions in his appointments. Having received twice as many applications as positions avaible, the scientists he judiciously selected ultimately shaped the destiny of the Survey and the New York State Museum.
WILLIAM SEWARD :: GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK 1839-1842
Governor Seward was responsible for bolstering continued support—and, consequently, funding—for the surveys. Upon taking office, Seward closely monitored the progress of the survey scientists. He also compiled a 180-page preface to the published reports entitled, "Notes on New York", in which he enlisted experts of various fields to create an "historical sketch of New York's progress in learning, politics, economic development, and the arts." Additionally, Seward is responsible for petitioning Legislation to dedicate Old State Hall to house the Survey's collections. On on November 7, 1840, an appropriation of $2,000 was made for renovating the building and establishing it as the offical home of the State Cabinet of Natural History.