In the UK the 1790's were responsible for two major advances, the elimination of scurvey in the Royal Navy through the issuance of limes, and the creation of the Ordnance Survey tasked with identifying sites for artillery placement along the English seacoast. Both contributed to preventing an invasion of the UK by Napoleon. Interestingly at roughly the same time a survey was being carried out in France from South to North to measure the meter, then defined as one ten millionth of a quarter of the Earth's circumference. If Napoleon had invaded Britain, it is interesting to speculate that Imperial units would have been replaced by SI in the early 19th C which might have avoided the units debates in modern times.
Since then as the world's first national mapping agency, the Ordnance Survey (OS) has been a model for other government mapping agencies around the world. The OS has just announced the formation of an international service, Ordnance Survey International, to provide specialist services to other national mapping agencies. It is estimated that location-based data contributes more than £100 billion to the UK economy. Ordnance Survey International will start in September 2012 and will be headed by Steven Ramage, former Executive Director at the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).. Carsten Roensdorf, currently with the OS in Southampton, will also be joining OS International and will be located in the Middle East. I've known both Steven and Carsten for many years. This is an outstanding team that will add a lot of value to national mapping internationally at a critical time when many of these organizations are experiencing rapid and dramatic changes.