Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury

“Pathfinder of the Seas.”

Matthew Fontaine Maury, astronomer and hydrographer, was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, 14 January 1806.

Appointed midshipman 1 February 1825, he achieved the rank of commander 14 September 1855. He was appointed Superintendent of the Department of Charts and Instruments in 1842, and upon the establishment of the Naval Observatory in 1844 became its first superintendent, holding that position until his resignation in April 1961. During this period he published some of his best known scientific works, and his “Wind and Current Charts,” “Sailing Directions,” and “Physical Geography of the Sea” remain standard. He became world-famous as “Pathfinder of the Seas,” the leading oceanographer of history.

Following his resignation at the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the Confederate Navy, in which he attained the rank of commodore. At the end of the war he occupied the chair of physics at the Virginia Military Institute.

He died at Lexington, Virginia, 1 February 1873.

More about Commodore Maury . . .

Source: DuVal, Jr., Captain Miles P., USN (Ret.) Matthew Fontaine Maury: Benefactor of Mankind at Naval History & Heritage Command.