From a small scientific body founded “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge” to one of the largest educational and scientific organizations in the world, the National Geographic Society has plenty to celebrate on its 125th anniversary this Sunday.

The society will mark the occasion in several ways, including the release of a book, “National Geographic 125 Years,” a one-hour National Geographic Channel special highlighting a new breed of “super explorer,” and a Google+ Hangout featuring Robert Ballard, James Cameron, and Jane Goodall at 1 p.m. EST. It will also have an anniversary-themed exhibition make its debut and hold a gala at the National Geographic Museum in Washington.

Since its humble beginnings in the Cosmos Club of Washington in 1888, the magazine has made armchair travelers out of us all. Its first grainy image graced the pages in 1890, and by 1906, there were so many photos that two members of the board of trustees resigned in protest, claiming the magazine had become “a picture book.”

Indeed it had, and perhaps more than anything else, it’s the stunning photos of the exotic and everyday that have become National Geographic’s trademark. It’s attracted the world’s preeminent photographers and captured a view of the world that’s completely unrivaled -- all while pushing the boundaries of discovery and adventure.

As National Geographic celebrates 125 years, here’s a look back at some of the shots that defined the iconic publication: