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The Promise of the Grand Canyon
National Museum of Natural History


 JFRoss Headshot_web.jpg

Author John F. Ross

FREE ticketed event

The National Museum of Natural History invites you to attend a conversation between the museum’s Sant Director, Kirk Johnson and John F. Ross, author of The Promise of the Grand Canyon.

The Promise of the Grand Canyon is a timely, thrilling account of a man who, as an explorer, dared to lead the first successful expedition down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon–and, as an American visionary, waged a bitterly-contested campaign for environmental sustainability in the American West.

When John Wesley Powell became the first person to navigate the entire Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon, he completed what Lewis and Clark had begun nearly 70 years earlier–the final exploration of continental America.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Powell would go on to become the most famous scientist of his generation. He helped establish the Geological Society of America and the National Geographic Society, and was a founder and president of the Anthropological Society of Washington and the Cosmos Club of Washington. As the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey and the first director of the Smithsonian’s Bureau of Ethnology, Powell helped establish the importance of federal science in the nation’s life. 

But perhaps most important, he would begin a national conversation about sustainable development of the American West when most everyone else still looked upon land as an inexhaustible resource. His prescient warnings not only forecast the Dust Bowl of 1935 but also the growing water scarcities of today. Stunning in its simplicity, yet revolutionary in its implications, the ideas Powell proposed would mark the first volley in the climate change debate.

Practical, yet visionary, Powell didn’t have all the answers, but was first to ask the right questions.

About the Author

Historian John F. Ross is the author most recently of The Promise of the Grand Canyon: John Wesley Powell’s Perilous Journey and His Vision of the American West. His previous books include Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed and War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America's First Frontier, which won the Fort Ticonderoga Award for Contributions to American History.


Accessibility Information

The National Museum of Natural History is committed to providing inclusive experiences for all audiences. Please contact 202-633-3611 or email for access services. To view and print a map with accessible entrances, curb cuts, designated parking, and more for Smithsonian facilities on the National Mall, please download the Accessibility Map here. 

Assistive Listening SystemsThe Q?rius Theater contains an induction loop.

Assisted listening devices are also available in the Q?rius Theater.


Sign Language Interpretation

If you would like to have a sign language interpreter or real-time captioning (CART), you should call (202) 633-3611 or send an e-mail to Please allow time to schedule the request by contacting the Accessbility Office at least 2 weeks prior to the program. We will do our best to accomodate last-minute requests.

Time: 6:45 PM - 8:30 PM
Ground Floor, National Museum of Natural History
10th St. and Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20013-7012
United States

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