The National Geographic Society (NGS), headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions 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. There were 33 original founders in 1888. Although Alexander Graham Bell is sometimes discussed as a founder, he was actually the second president, elected on January 7, 1898 and serving until 1903.
A friend of Roosevelt's, Father John Augustine Zahm, persuaded Roosevelt to participate in an expedition to South America. To finance the expedition, Roosevelt received support from the American Museum of Natural History in return for promising to bring back many new animal specimens. Before Theodore Roosevelt had even completed his sea voyage back home, critics raised doubts over his claims of exploring and navigating a completely uncharted river in South America over 625 miles (1,006 km) long. When he had recovered sufficiently, he addressed a standing-room-only convention organized in Washington, D.C., by the National Geographic Society and satisfactorily defended his claims.