Stephen Long is best-known for his exploration of the Great Plains region of the United States and for conducting topographical and scientific studies of its geology, flora and fauna. Additionally, he was a noted inventor, improving on steam locomotive designs of the time. He received a patent for this work in 1826.
Stephen Long was born on Dec. 30, 1784, in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, to Lucy and Moses Long. He attended Dartmouth College, earning a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in 1809 and 1812, respectively. After graduation, Long joined the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, reaching the rank of major on April 16, 1816.
After conducting an 1818 trip along the Missouri River, Long returned east and received a new mission. After the United States acquired territory clear to the Pacific in the western half of the continent, President James Madison commanded Long and a group of scientists to explore the area east of the Rocky Mountains. The group set out in mid-1820 along the Platte River, meeting native tribes such as the Pawnee and Otoe. The expedition named Longs Peak in the mountains and conducted the first recorded ascension of Pikes Peak. After continuing along the South Platte River, Long divided the group; his division followed the Red River and, after difficulties, rendezvoused at Fort Smith in Arkansas.