National Professional Surveyors Week: Lessons from history to inform the present

Daniel E. Marvin

Every year, the third week of March represents National Surveyor’s week, a time to celebrate and communicate the important work done by land surveyors every day across the United States.

While the history of National Surveyors Week goes back to 1984 when it was first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan, the history of land surveying goes back quite a bit further. The profession can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egyptian civilization, nearly 5,000 years ago! Back then, surveyors used rudimentary tools to help construct the Great Pyramids, and there are even records of a land register detailing property rights. Even some of our country’s most famous leaders, like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, were land surveyors.

This ancient profession remains just as relevant and important to society these days too. In the U.S., there are more than 45,000 professional land surveyors who help measure and determine land and property boundaries every day. Without their services, our society would not look or operate the way it does today. Ever wondered why our state of New York looks the way it does? Land surveyors of course!

Land surveyors have long relied on a broad range of skills, tools and knowledge in order to be successful in the profession. It remains common for land surveyors to have a strong background and understanding in disciplines like geometry, trigonometry, physics, engineering, meteorology, geology, computer programming and even the law. As a result, land surveyors do not just come from one particular background or study just one particular field. Land surveyors come from a whole host of backgrounds and study all sorts of fields, from science and math to history and art. It is an ever-evolving field that has modernized alongside the rest of society and will continue to do so for years to come.

While land surveyors continue to use similar tools that have been utilized for decades, they also now rely on high-tech equipment to assist in their profession. Traditional telescopic gear now has backup support from tools like lasers and drones to help discern property boundaries. Other advanced technology regularly in use today includes GPS, 3D laser scanning and robotic survey instruments to help land surveyors get the most accurate measurements and mapping of land needed to provide exceptional service.

As we mark the 37th annual National Surveyors Week, it remains important that we not only recognize the important contributions that land surveyors have made to society over the years, but also understand how critical the profession remains to this day. To ensure that it continues to be an essential profession to society, a major focus of National Surveyors Week is to educate the public, particularly young students, about land surveying through the classroom, media and other public services. In doing so, we hope to inspire and prepare the next generation of land surveyors who will then carry on the long and important tradition and profession of land surveying in our society.

To learn more about land surveying, please visit www.nysapls.org.

Daniel E. Marvin, LS is the President of the New York State Association of Professional Land Surveyors. He is employed by Marvin Land Surveying, a family owned business located in Lake Placid, N.Y. Dan was licensed as a Professional Land Surveyor in New York in 2006. Dan also serves on the Education and Finance Committees. He is a past President, Vice-President, and Secretary of Northern New York Association of Professional Land Surveyors.

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