Deceased , Historic




Matthew Fontaine Maury, United States Navy, was an American astronomer, historian, oceanographer, meteorologist, cartographer, author, geologist and educator, LL.D.
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 obtained, through the then-US Congressman Sam Houston, a midshipman’s warrant in 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 reduce 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.
Accomplishments and Honors
• A monument to Maury, by sculptor Frederick William Sievers, was unveiled in Richmond on November 11, 1929.
• Maury Hall, the home of the Naval Science Department at the University of Virginia and headquarters of the University’s Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) battalion, was named in his honor.
• The original building of the College of William & Mary Virginia Institute of Marine Science is named Maury Hall as well. Another Maury Hall, named after him, houses the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the Systems Engineering Department at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
• Three United States Navy ships named USS Maury. A fourth U.S. Navy ship named in his honor was the USS Commodore Maury (SP-656), patrol vessel and mine sweeper. A World War II Liberty Ship was also named in his honor. Additionally, Tidewater Community College, based in Norfolk Virginia, owns the R/V Matthew F. Maury. This ship is used for oceanography research and student cruises. In March, 2013, in Maury’s honor, the U.S. Navy launched the USNS Maury in Mississippi. The Maury is designed to be an oceanographic survey ship for the Navy.
• Lake Maury in Newport News, Virginia is named after Maury. The Maury River, located near Virginia Military Institute (where Maury was on faculty), honors the scientist as does a Maury crater on the Moon.
• A high school in Norfolk, Virginia is named for Maury. Also, Maury Elementary School, in Alexandria, Virginia, was named for him. Maury Elementary was built in 1926.
• James Madison University has a Maury Hall named in honor of Matthew Fontaine Maury. This was the university’s first academic and administrative building.
• On the Navigation of Cape Horn; by M.F. Maury, Passed Midshipman, U.S. Navy
• Numerous Whaling Charts
• Numerous Wind and Current Charts
• Numerous Sailing Directions
• U.S. Navy Contributions to Science and Commerce (1847)
• Explanations and Sailing Directions to Accompany the Wind and Current Charts, 1851, 1854, 1855
• Lieut. Maury’s Investigations of the Winds and Currents of the Sea, 1851
• On the Probable Relation between Magnetism and the Circulation of the Atmosphere, 1851
• Maury’s Wind and Current Charts: Gales in the Atlantic, 1857
• The Physical Geography of the Sea, 1855, 1856, 1859
• Observations to Determine the Solar Parallax, 1856
• Amazon, and the Atlantic Slopes of South America, 1853
• Commander M. F. Maury on American Affairs, 1861
• The Physical Geography of the Sea and Its Meteorology, 1861
• Maury’s New Elements of Geography for Primary and Intermediate Classes
• Geography: “The World We Live In” by M. F. Maury

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