As a native of Boston and descendant of a long line of New Englanders, Charles Henry Davis had reason to be pleased that his naval duties had brought him back to Boston and Cambridge in 1841. He could complete his work at Harvard and obtain the degree he had postponed when he joined the Navy as a midshipman in 1823. He was to be married to Professor Benjamin Peirce's sister-in-law, and through Peirce he could expect to be included in the exciting scientific and intellectual circles of Cambridge and Boston. Appointed to the Coast Survey in 1842, he could look forward to friendly relations and aid from its Superintendent, Alexander D. Bache, Peirce's close friend and eventually his own; and with the arrival of Louis Agassiz in Cambridge, he would become associated with the foremost scientist of the day in an alliance that extended beyond the local scene into the national.
Eighteen years of cruising in the Navy had broadened Davis's view of the world and had also stimulated his interest in natural history and scientific exploration. His work for the Coast Survey revealed this breadth and greater sophistication of knowledge, as did his two notable scientific articles on tides and currents. But his even larger skills as an organizer of a scientific bureau were revealed in the efforts he made, with the encouragement of Bach and Joseph Henry to establish the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, a publication designed to render the government the most efficient source of navigational information. Also aimed at promoting astronomy, the American almanac was organized on a more extensive plan than its British counterpart, which had hitherto served American navigators; the American publication "fully conformed to the latest developments of knowledge, and [it was] likely to give an additional stimulus to pure research."
The establishment of the Nautical Almanac at the Harvard Observatory made possible that "affectionate and continuous intercourse with astronomers necessary for a good almanac." With Peirce as the