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Matthew Fontaine Maury

Born: 14-Jan-1806
Birthplace: Fredericksburg, VA
Died: 1-Feb-1873
Location of death: Lexington, VA
Cause of death: Exhaustion
Remains: Buried, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA

Gender: Male
Religion: Christian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Military, Scientist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Father of modern oceanography

Military service: US Navy (1825-61); Confederate Navy (1861-65)

As a career Naval officer, Matthew Fontaine Maury developed a uniform methodology for recording ocean winds and currents. His analysis of these patterns allowed shippers to take advantage of air and water flow, decreasing trans-Atlantic travel time by days or even weeks. In his 1855 treatise The Physical Geography of the Seas and Its Meteorology, he wrote, "Our planet is invested with two great oceans; one visible, the other invisible; one underfoot, the other overhead; one entirely envelopes it, the other covers about two thirds of its surface". His standardized system for logging winds and currents was adopted by navies and merchant marine fleets worldwide, and he also charted the migratory patterns of whales, leading to a much more efficient whale harvest.

Maury resigned his Naval commission at the outbreak of the Civil War, and became Chief of SeaCoast, River and Harbor Defenses for the Confederacy. In this position, he traveled to Europe to obtain ships to strengthen the Southern fleet, and designed an improved contact mine that had some success sinking Northern vessels. After the war he fled to Mexico and, under appointment by Emperor Maximilian, urged his fellow Southerners to relocate there with their slaves. When that project faltered, he returned to his native state and taught at Virginia Military Institute. He was a pall bearer at the 1870 funeral of Robert E. Lee.

Father: Richard Lancelot Maury (farmer, b. 1766, d. 1843)
Mother: Diana Minor Maury (b. 1768, m. 18-Jan-1792, d. 1843)
Brother: William Lewis Maury (b. 1792, d. 1878)
Brother: John Minor Maury (US Naval officer, b. 1795, d. 1824 yellow fever)
Sister: Matilda Hill Maury Guthrie (b. 1797, d. 1846)
Brother: James Walker Maury (b. 1799)
Sister: Ann Hull Herndon (b. 1811, d. 1901)
Sister: Mary Stith Maury Squire Ludlow (b. 1812, d. 1862)
Sister: Elizabeth Maury Holland (b. 1802)
Brother: Richard Lancelot Maury, Jr. (b. 1804, d. 1838)
Brother: Charles Maury (b. 1808)
Sister: Catherine Ann Maury (b. 1810, d. 1838)
Wife: Ann Hull Herndon Maury ("Nannie", cousin, b. 1811, dated 1831-34, m. 15-Jul-1834, d. 1875)
Daughter: Elizabeth Herndon Maury Maury (b. 1835, d. 1903)
Daughter: Diana Fontaine Maury Corbin (author, b. 1837, d. 1900)
Son: Richard Launcelot Maury ("Dick", Confederal soldier, b. 1840, d. 1907)
Son: John Herndon Maury (Confederate soldier, b. 1842, d. 1863 war)
Daughter: Mary Herndon Maury Werth (b. 1844, d. 1928)
Daughter: Eliza Hull Maury Withers (b. 1846, d. 1881)
Son: Matthew Fontaine Maury, Jr. (b. 1849, d. 1866)
Daughter: Lucy Minor Maury Van Doren (b. 1851, d. 1915)

    High School: Harpeth Academy, Franklin, TN
    Professor: Meteorology, Virginia Military Institute (1868-73)

    French Legion of Honor 1855
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    Mexican Official Imperial Commissioner of Colonization (1865-66)
    United States Naval Observatory Superintendent (1842-1861)
    Dutch Ancestry (maternal)
    Huguenot Ancestry (paternal)

Author of books:
A New Theoretical and Practical Treatise on Navigation (1836)
Wind and Current Charts of the North Atlantic (1847)
The Physical Geography of the Sea and Its Meteorology (1855)
The World We Live In (1868)
First Lessons in Geography (1871)
Steam-Lanes across the Atlantic (1872)
Physical Geography (1873)
New Complete Geography (1906, posthumous)


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