Matthew Fontaine Maury, Father of Oceanography

A Biography, 1806–1873


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About the Book

In becoming “a useful man” on the maritime stage, Matthew Fontaine Maury focused on the ills of a clique-ridden Navy, charted sea lanes and bested Great Britain’s admiralty in securing the fastest, safest routes to India and Australia. He helped bind the Old and New worlds with the laying of the transatlantic cable, forcefully advocated Southern rights in a troubled union, and preached Manifest Destiny from the Arctic to Cape Horn. And he revolutionized warfare in perfecting electronically detonated mines.
Maury’s eagerness to go to the public on the questions of the day riled powerful men in business and politics, and the U.S., Confederate and Royal navies. He more than once ran afoul of Jefferson Davis and Stephen R. Mallory, secretary of the Confederate States Navy. But through the political, social and scientific struggles of his time, Maury had his share of powerful allies, like President John Tyler.

About the Author(s)

John Grady served as managing editor of Navy Times and has been published in Naval History, the New York Times’ Disunion series, the Times’ collection of essays on the Civil War and the Civil War Monitor’s Front Line. He is a contributor to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Civil War blog and lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

John Grady
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 264
Bibliographic Info: 20 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7821-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1808-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v

Preface 1

Prologue: The Last Crusade 5

1. God’s Wandering Children 9

2. Becoming a Useful Man 19

3. Citizen of Virginia 30

4. Lessons for a Lifetime 38

5. The Siren’s Song 51

6. The ­Ever-Changing Sea of Life 58

7. The Exploring Expedition Fiasco 70

8. Survival Ashore 78

9. In Washington in a Scientific Post 88

10. The Navy and the Observatory 96

11. A Most Uncivil War 108

12. Charting the Oceans and Finding Gold 121

13. Grand Explorations and Manifest Destiny 129

14. Gauging the Politics of Weather 141

15. Some Fair Winds 152

16. The Great Enterprise 156

17. Shipwreck and Salvation 167

18. Wise and Good Counsels in Bedlam 179

19. The Heady First Spring of War 192

20. At War with the Cotton Kings 204

21. The Confederate European Crusade 221

22. Winning Hearts and Minds 235

23. The Long Exile 247

24. At Peace in the Ruins of War 261

Chapter Notes 279

Bibliography 322

Index 349

Book Reviews & Awards

“This book is an interesting account of the political and scientific battles Maury waged to promote more quantitative and predictive science. Recommended”—Choice; “well-researched…recommend[ed]”—The Journal of Military History; “a remarkably thorough narrative…. The depth of Grady’s research is amply demonstrated by the very comprehensive bibliography”—Nautical Research Journal; “Grady’s volume is the first scholarly book on Maury in 50 years. It covers his entire life”—Civil War News; “Grady excels at tracing and explaining Maury’s naval career and his scientific contributions to oceanography and military technology. A welcome and significant addition to scholarly work on Maury’s life, and it should prove engaging and useful for scholars of the Civil War, naval history, and the history of science”—Virginia Magazine; “Grady successfully manages to bring a historical person again to life with his book never becoming a dry scholarly read, but always remaining a book that has all the qualities of a good read. It is a book you would also read for its qualities as a well-written story…solid research…recommended”—Naval Historical Foundation; “engrossing biography…highly recommend John Grady’s thoroughly absorbing well-written biography of this naval genius”—The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord.