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CDR Matthew Fontaine Maury

CDR Matthew Fontaine Maury

Birth
Spotsylvania County, Virginia, USA
Death 1 Feb 1873 (aged 67)
Lexington, Lexington City, Virginia, USA
Burial Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 8835 · View Source
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The Father of modern Oceanography, he has also been called the Pathfinder of the Seas. Born near Fredericksburg, Virginia, to a farming family, his family moved in 1810 to Franklin, Tennessee, where he attended school, including the Harpeth Academy. Following in the footsteps of his brother, Maury joined the US Navy in 1825 as a Midshipman, and for years he would cruise across the oceans, circumnavigating the world, until 1835, when a stagecoach accident made him permanently lame in his right leg, and unfit for sea duty. In 1830, he had published his first book, "Navigation After a Voyage Around the World," and in 1836, his second book, "A New Theoretical and Practical Treaty on Navigation." In 1842, he was appointed superintendent of US Naval Observatory in Washington DC, and having access to the logbooks and charts from across the world, he began a scientific study and compilation of the data on wind and currents. In 1847, he published "Wind and Current Charts of the North America" and in 1851, "Explanations and Sailing Directions to Accompany the Wind and Current Charts." Both volumes gave excellent instructions to sailors and seamen then sailing in North American waters, and have been republished several times, with several revisions. When the Civil War broke out, Maury resigned his commission of Commander to join with the Confederacy. During the war he went on several missions to England to acquire war vessels and supplies for the Confederacy, and worked on harbor defense, inventing an electrical torpedo to launch against enemy ships. In 1865, when the Civil War was over and fearful that former confederate officers might be tried for treason, he went to Mexico, where he helped the Emperor Maximilian establish a haven for ex-confederates. Upon learning that former confederates would not be tried as traitors, he finally returned to the US in 1868, where he became a professor of meteorology at the Virginia Military Institute. He died in 1873, in Lexington, Virginia, following a short illness. Despite his support of the Confederacy, he was honored with a Maury Hall at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and was elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1930. There have been four US Navy ships named after him, the last being the USS Maury (AGS-39). Maury's accomplishments were not in being the first to discover currents or the effects of wind, but in putting together a simple and easy to use book on ocean navigation and the known effects of wind and ocean currents upon navigation. He was the first person to systematize the knowledge of ocean phenomena. His books saved navigation time and reduced risk of ocean travel by allowing ships to take advantage of ocean currents and wind. Navies and commercial shipping around the world adopted his system of using and documenting ocean data.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson



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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 12 Mar 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8835
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for CDR Matthew Fontaine Maury (14 Jan 1806–1 Feb 1873), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8835, citing Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .