Matthew Fontaine Maury

Matthew Fontaine Maury (January 14, 1806 – February 1, 1873), United States Navy, was an American astronomer, historian, oceanographer, meteorologist, cartographer, author, geologist, and educator.

He was nicknamed "Pathfinder of the Seas" and "Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology" and later, "Scientist of the Seas," due to the publication of his extensive works in his books, especially The Physical Geography of the Sea (1855), the first extensive and comprehensive book on oceanography to be published. Maury made many important new contributions to charting winds and ocean currents, including ocean lanes for passing ships at sea.

In 1825 at age 19, Maury joined the United States Navy as a midshipman on board the frigate USS Brandywine. Almost immediately he began to study the seas and record methods of navigation. When a leg injury left him unfit for sea duty, Maury devoted his time to the study of navigation, meteorology, winds, and currents. He became Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory and head of the Depot of Charts and Instruments. Here, Maury studied thousands of ships' logs and charts. He published the Wind and Current Chart of the North Atlantic, which showed sailors how to use the ocean's currents and winds to their advantage and drastically reduced the length of ocean voyages. Maury's uniform system of recording oceanographic data was adopted by navies and merchant marines around the world and was used to develop charts for all the major trade routes.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Maury, a Virginian, resigned his commission as a U. S. Navy commander and joined the Confederacy. He spent the war in the South, as well as abroad in Great Britain, Ireland, and France. He helped acquire a ship (CSS Georgia) for the Confederacy while also advocating stopping the war in America among several European Nations. Following the war, Maury accepted a teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. He died at his V.M.I. home in Lexington in 1873 after completing an exhausting state-to-state lecture tour on National and International weather forecasting on land. He had also completed his book on his Geological Survey of Virginia and a New series of Geography for young people.

Read more about Matthew Fontaine Maury:  Early Life and Career, Attempted Eradication of All Slavery in The United States of America, Civil War, International Honors

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