When well directed, science is the greatest agency for the welfare of mankind. John Wesley Powell, the director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), delivered this message to Congress in 1884. The purpose of Powell's testimony to Congress was not to argue for the erection of an organizational framework for American science, but to defend the one that had been put in place decades earlier. At the time of Powell's testimony, the United States had already begun to assume the mantle of the greatest scientific nation on the planet. “I have studied the question closely,” declared W. H. Smyth, the president of the Royal Geographical Society of London, “and do not hesitate to pronounce the conviction that though the Americans were last in the field, they have, per saltum, leaped into the very front of the rank.” The organizational structure at the heart of America's rapid scientific rise was initially constructed by scientists serving in the nineteenth-century American bureaucracy—by men like John W. Powell. Often seen as a source of state incapacity, in this instance, the federal bureaucracy was the most important force in American scientific development.