[Wilkes's] most important command, the U.S. Exploring and Surveying Expedition to the Pacific Ocean and South Seas, 1838-1842, represented the first governmental sponsorship of scientific endeavor and was instrumental in the nation's westward expansion. Specimens gathered by expedition scientists became the foundation collections of the Smithsonian Institution. Significant American contributions in the fields of geology, botany, conchology, anthropology, and linguistics came from the scientific work of the expedition. Wilkes's evaluations of his landfalls influenced later U.S. positions in those areas.
Roberta A. Sprague, "Wilkes, Charles," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/20/20-01124.html.