Bache, Alexander Dallas (1806–1867)

By: Hobart Huson and Mark Odintz

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: November 1, 1994

Alexander Dallas Bache was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 19, 1806, the eldest child of Sophia (Dallas) and Richard Bache. He was a great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin and a member of a family distinguished by its physicists and scientists. Bache graduated from the Military Academy at West Point in 1825 and served in the Corps of Engineers. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania and was associated with the Franklin Institute until 1835, when he was appointed the first president of Girard College at Philadelphia. From 1843 to 1861 Bache served as superintendent of the United States Coast Survey, and much of the coast of Texas was surveyed by teams working under his direction. Although Commodore Edwin Moore, Capt. George Simpton, and Capt. Perry W. Humphrey of the Texas Navy had made surveys and maps of the Texas coast, and engineers attached to Gen. Zachary Taylor's army had surveyed the section of the coast between Corpus Christi and Caballo Pass in 1845–46, the Coast Survey's charting of the Gulf Coast from Point Isabel (later Port Isabel) to Florida appears to have been the first scientific cartography of the coast of Texas. The numerous maps and charts made under Bache's supervision during his tenure are in the National Archives. He wrote many reports of his surveys of the Gulf coast, which appeared in the annual reports of his department. He served as adviser to the United States Navy during the Civil War. He made notable contributions to science during his long career. Bache married Nancy Clarke Fowler in 1828. He died on February 17, 1867.

Dictionary of American Biography.
  • Exploration
  • Explorers (American)
  • Education
  • Military Institutes and Flight Schools
  • Boundaries and Cartography
  • Surveyors and Cartographers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Hobart Huson and Mark Odintz, “Bache, Alexander Dallas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994