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Pioneering work

Created in 1838, the “Topographic Office” published the sheets of the “Topographic Map of Switzerland” (Dufour Map) between 1845 and 1865. This was pioneering work on the part of the official Swiss Federal Cartography Office and a feat of surveying.

1838–1865     Guillaume-Henri Dufour

1838–?              Carouge, Maison Chossat
?–1856              Carouge, Rue du Rhône 88
1856-1865       Carouge, Tranchée de Rive Nr. 1

1838–1865
Eidgenössisches Topographisches Büreau
Bureau topographique fédéral

The illustration shows part of the Jura mountains on sheet VII of the Dufour Map as well as neighbouring France. The Swiss territory can be distinguished from the purely schematic representation of the French areas, in particular in terms of the strikingly protruding relief.
Switzerland is depicted in three-dimensional impression in the map image. Sheet VII of the Dufour Map (© swisstopo)

Foundation

Created as the “Bureau Topographique Fédéral” in 1838 in Geneva, swisstopo’s roots extend back to the time before the foundation of the Swiss federal state (1848).

Under the leadership of General Guillaume Henri Dufour, the Office worked on the first official map covering all of Switzerland until 1865. It was given the official name “Topographic Map of Switzerland” but was already better known at the time as the “Dufour Map”. The map to a scale of 1:100,000 required close coordination work at the cantonal and federal levels, even before the creation of the Federal State.

National surveying

Attempts to create a federally organised national triangulation network began in 1809 when Colonel Quartermaster Hans Conrad Finsler carried out the first operations in north-eastern Switzerland.

Only the closer coordination from 1838 onwards accelerated the process, thanks to the Topographical Bureau in Geneva. Over the next few years, the laborious topographic survey of the Alpine regions began; Johannes Eschmann published the results of the trigonometric surveys of Switzerland. These provided geodetic point bases for the Dufour Map.

Between 1845 and 1865, 25 sheets were published in total, including four corner sheets with no map content. When the work was finished, Guillaume Henri Dufour passed the leadership of the Federal Topographical Bureau on to Hermann Siegfried.

A masterpiece

The first edition of the “Topographic Map of Switzerland” was in black and white and engraved on copper plates. Its surveying, artisanal and artistic excellence was repeatedly honoured both in Switzerland and abroad.

The Dufour Map was particularly impressive due to its very high degree of precision according to the standards of the day and its seemingly three-dimensional rock representations.
 

1832: Dufour appointed quartermaster general

Guillaume-Henri Dufour appointed quartermaster general (until 1847, and "Directeur de la Carte" until 1865) as successor to Johann Ludwig Wurstemberger (since 1831).

1837: Completion of triangulation

Completion of the first-order triangulation as a further basis for detailed surveys (since 1825/1832). 

1838: Foundation of the Federal Topographic Bureau

Guillaume-Henri Dufour establishes a topographic bureau in Maison Chossat, Place du Temple (today, Rue St-Victor 22) in Carouge (Geneva), the first forerunner of the present-day Federal Office of Topography. The Federal Topographic Bureau commences operation on 1 January 1838 (= official foundation date).

1838: Foundation of the Federal Topographic Bureau

Guillaume Henri Dufour establishes a topographic bureau in Maison Chossat, Place du Temple (today, Rue St-Victor 22) in Carouge (Geneva), the first forerunner of the present-day Federal Office of Topography. The Federal Topographic Bureau commences operation on 1 January 1838 (= official foundation date).

1838: Instructions for surveys in the Alps

Instructions for surveys in the Alps, 1:25,000 and 1:50,000. 

1838: Publication of topographic map of canton of Geneva

Publication of the topographic map of the canton of Geneva under the supervision of Guillaume-Henri Dufour. This map serves as the model for other works.

1839: Initiation of topographic surveys in the Alps

Initiation of the topographic survey in the Alps by various surveyors (until 1862). 

1840: Johannes Eschmann publishes results of trigonometric surveys in Switzerland

Johannes Eschmann publishes the results of the trigonometric surveys in Switzerland - the document that forms the basis for all other work on the planned map. It permitted the calculation of the altitude of the R.P.N. control point in Geneva as 376.2 metres above sea level. For modern-day comparison purposes, this figure may be regarded as the initial altitude for the Dufour Map. 

1841: Introduction of copper engraving

Introduction of copper engraving for the 1:100,000 topographic map. 

1845: First sheet of the Dufour Map

After a one-year delay, publication of the first sheet (no. XVII) of the 1:100,000 topographic map (referred to as the Dufour Map), printed by Rudolf Foppert in Zurich. 

1862: Specification of the height of the R.P.N. control point

Height of the R.P.N. control point in Geneva calculated on the basis of French levelling as 374.052 metres above sea level (publication, 1864). This triggers the precision-levelling survey. 

1863: Commencement of triangulation of own network

Swiss Geodetic Commission initiates the triangulation of its own first-order network within the scope of the central European arc measurement (until 1890).

1863: Federal Council names Dufour Peak

Federal Council names the highest peak to date on the Dufour Map as Dufour Peak.

1864: Precision levelling (Adolphe Hirsch and Emile Plantamour)

Decision to carry out precision levelling under the supervision of Adolphe Hirsch and Emile Plantamour, to commence in 1865 (until 1883).

1865: Hermann Siegfried appointed head of Federal Topographic Bureau

Hermann Siegfried appointed head of the Federal Topographic Bureau (until 1879) as successor of Guillaume Henri Dufour (since 1838).

1865: Publication of last sheet of Dufour Map

Publication of last sheet (no. XIII) of the Dufour Map. Total of 57,952 copies printed since 1845.


Federal Office of Topography swisstopo Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern
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+41 58 469 01 11

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Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern

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