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Matthew Fountaine Maury Pathfinder of the Sea

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Matthew Fountaine Maury 

Pathfinder of the Sea



Born: Spotsylvania County, Virginia

Died: Lexington, Virginia

Nationality: American

Occupation: Oceanographer, naval officer, educator

Military career

Allegiance: United States of America;
Confederate States of America

Service: United States Navy;
Confederate States Navy

Years of service : 1825-1861 (USN);
1861-1865 (CSN)

Rank: Commander (USN);
Commander (CSN)

Matthew Fontaine Maury (January 14, 1806 to 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 US 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 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.

Matthew Fontaine Maury:

"Pathfinder Of Sea" Psalms 8

by Steve Rudd


The story of "A Brief Sketch of the Work of Matthew Fontaine Maury" By Richard Launcelot Maury (1915 AD) is told below by Katherine C. Styles:


WHEN I took charge of the Georgia Room, in the Confederate Museum, in Richmond, Virginia in 1897, I found among the De Renne collection an engraving of the pleasant, intellectual face of Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, so I went to his son, Colonel Richard L. Maury, who had been with his father in all his work here, and urged him to write the history of it, while memory, papers and books could be referred to; this carefully written, accurate paper was the result.

At one time, when Commodore Maury was very sick, he asked one of his daughters to get the Bible and read to him.  She chose Psalm 8, the eighth verse of which speaks of "whatsoever walketh through the paths of the sea," he repeated "the paths of the sea, the paths of the sea, if God says the paths of the sea, they are there, and if I ever get out of this bed I will find them."

He did begin his deep sea soundings as soon as he was strong enough, and found that two ridges extended from the New York coast to England, so he made charts for ships to sail over one path to England and return over the other.

The proceeds from the sale of this little pamphlet will be used as the beginning of a fund for the erection of a monument to Commodore Maury in Richmond.



Some have called into question the story of Matthew Maury using the Bible as a guide to discover ocean currents.  In a nutshell, I find it incredible that the US Naval Institute would not only publish the story if untrue in 1929, but then puts the quote of the entire verse of Ps 8:8 "Paths of the seas" on his monument.  What did the US Naval academy know that modern skeptics don't know that would lead them to do this?  The book also references an earlier newspaper story that says the same thing.  But the evidence gets even more powerful, given the fact that the State of Virginia built a monument to Maury at Goshen Pass in 1923 and put this inscription on it:



 PSALMS 8 & 107, VERSES 8, 23 & 24 



Perhaps one of the most important reasons NOT to reject the story, is because no one BACK THEN questioned it!  To me the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour that the basic story must be true.  The US Navel academy and the State of Virginia are not some irresponsible Internet vigilantes promoting rumors and half truths.  THEY ARE THE AUTHORITATIVE HISTORIANS.  The only question is about WHEN Maury was first inspired by the Bible to discover ocean currents.  Bible skeptics have supplied no argument that has not been answered.  Until Bible skeptics supply me with some documented reason to reject the story, it remains a basic fact of history.

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