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Carouge - Bureau topographique fédéral 1838

Why is it that 1838 is regarded as the founding year for one of the oldest elements in what was to become the Swiss government – a full decade before 1848?

Drawing showing the building that housed the original 'Bureau topographique'
The first "Bureau topographique fédéral" in 1838 in Carouge. Drawing, date unknown.

It all started six years earlier, on 20 September 1832, when Guillaume-Henri Dufour (1787-1875) was appointed Quartermaster General of the Confederation by the Legislative Assembly (“Tagsatzung”). In this capacity, he was responsible for continuing the trigonometric surveys which had been declared by the Legislative Assembly to be a matter of national importance in 1822.

Between 1832 and 1836, in three sessions of the commission specifically convened for the purpose of the topographic survey, the basic parameters for the upcoming 1:100,000 topographic map of Switzerland were set. When Dufour took over the reins, work on this project was already underway.

Yet, as in previous years, it was not making much headway because limited financial resources meant there were no permanent staff. Thanks to Dufour’s outspoken report of March 1837, resources were allocated at the Legislative Assembly of 17 August 1837, although the Legislative Assembly could not bring itself to formally recognise this national institution.

Dufour immediately set up the Bureau topographique fédéral, which he ran from the beginning of 1838 in Carouge. This initiative counts as the official moment when today’s Federal Office of Topography swisstopo came into existence.


  • Carouge: Bureau topographique fédéral 1838
    What was the event that resulted in the recognition of the fact that 1838 was the year in which one of the oldest units of the future Federal Administration was established – a full decade prior to 1848?
    PDF, 2 page(s), 246 KB, German
  • Locations of the Topographic Bureau and the Federal Office of Topography from 1838 to the present
    The present-day Federal Office of Topography swisstopo is one of the oldest institutions within the modern Federal Administration. It was founded in 1838 in Carouge (Geneva) as the “Bureau topographique fédéral”, and began to publish the first official set of national maps, the 1:100,000 Topographic Map of Switzerland, in 1845. After its move to Bern, it had to change locations a number of times, sometimes to highly prestigious addresses, until it was at long last able to move into its own building at 264 Seftigenstrasse in Wabern around 100 years after its establishment.
    PDF, 12 page(s), 3 MB, German

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


Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern


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