Matthew Fontaine Maury
Matthew Fontaine Maury

Celebrity Profile

Name: Matthew Fontaine Maury
Occupation: Oceanographer
Gender: Male
Birth Day: January 14, 1806
Death Date: Feb 1, 1873 (age 67)
Age: Aged 67
Country: United States
Zodiac Sign: Capricorn

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Height: in centimeters - N/A
Weight: in kg - N/A
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Matthew Fontaine Maury

Matthew Fontaine Maury was born on January 14, 1806 in United States (67 years old). Matthew Fontaine Maury is an Oceanographer, zodiac sign: Capricorn. Find out Matthew Fontaine Maurynet worth 2020, salary 2020 detail bellow.


He was called 'Scientist of the Sea' due to the success of his 1855 book The Physical Geography of the Sea, which was the first comprehensive book on oceanography to be published.

Does Matthew Fontaine Maury Dead or Alive?

As per our current Database, Matthew Fontaine Maury died on Feb 1, 1873 (age 67).

Net Worth

Net Worth 2020


Salary 2020

Not known

Before Fame

He joined the United States Navy as a midshipman on board the frigate USS Brandywine in 1825, when he was only 19 years old, and rose the ranks for thirty-five years.

Biography Timeline


He was born in 1806 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near Fredericksburg; his parents were Richard Maury and Diane Minor Maury. The family moved to Franklin, Tennessee, when he was five. He wanted to emulate the naval career of his older brother, Flag Lieutenant John Minor Maury, who, however, caught yellow fever after fighting pirates as an officer in the US Navy. As a result of John's painful death, Matthew's father, Richard, forbade him from joining the Navy. Maury strongly considered attending West Point to get a better education than the Navy could offer at that time, but instead, he obtained a naval appointment through the influence of Tennessee Representative Sam Houston, a family friend, in 1825, at the age of 19.


As officer-in-charge of the United States Navy office in Washington, DC, called the "Depot of Charts and Instruments," the young lieutenant became a librarian of the many unorganized log books and records in 1842. On his initiative, he sought to improve seamanship through organizing the information in his office and instituting a reporting system among the nation's shipmasters to gather further information on sea conditions and observations. The product of his work was international recognition and the publication in 1847 of Wind and Current Chart of the North Atlantic. His international recognition assisted in the change of purpose and name of the depot to the United States Naval Observatory and Hydrographical Office in 1854. He held that position until his resignation in April 1861. Maury was one of the principal advocates for the founding of a national observatory, and he appealed to a science enthusiast and former US President, Representative John Quincy Adams, for the creation of what would eventually become the Naval Observatory. Maury occasionally hosted Adams, who enjoyed astronomy as an avocation, at the Naval Observatory. Concerned that Maury always had a long trek to and from his home on upper Pennsylvania Avenue, Adams introduced an appropriations bill that funded a Superintendent's House on the Observatory grounds. Adams thus felt no constraint in regularly stopping by for a look through the facility's telescope.


In 1849, Maury spoke out on the need for a transcontinental railroad to join the Eastern United States to California. He recommended a southerly route with Memphis, Tennessee, as the eastern terminus, as it is equidistant from Lake Michigan and the Gulf of Mexico. He argued that a southerly route running through Texas would avoid winter snows and could open up commerce with the northern states of Mexico. Maury also advocated construction of a railroad across the Isthmus of Panama.


Maury stance on the institution of slavery is one that has been termed "proslavery international". Maury, along with other politicians, newspaper editors, merchants, and United States government officials, envisioned a future for slavery that linked the United States, the Caribbean Sea, and the Amazon basin in Brazil. He believed the future of United States commerce lay in South America, colonized by white southerners and their enslaved people. There, Maury claimed, was “work to be done by Africans with the American axe in his hand.” In the 1850s he studied a way to send Virginia's slaves to Brazil as a way to gradually phase out slavery in the state. Maury was aware of an 1853 survey of the Amazon region conducted by the Navy by Lt. William Lewis Herndon. The 1853 expedition aimed to map the area for trade so American traders could go "with their goods and chattels [including enslaved people] to settle and to trade goods from South American countries along the river highways of the Amazon valley". Brazil maintained legal enslavement but had legally prohibited importation of new slaves from Africa in 1850 under the pressure of the British. Maury proposed that moving people enslaved in the United States to Brazil would reduce or eliminate slavery over time in as many areas of the south as possible, and would end new enslavement for Brazil. Maury's primary concern, however, was neither the freedom of enslaved people nor the amelioration of slavery in Brazil but rather absolution for the white slaveholders of Virginia and other states of the South. Maury wrote to his cousin, "Therefore I see in the slave territory of the Amazon the SAFETY VALVE of the Southern States."


Maury early became convinced that adequate scientific knowledge of the sea could be obtained only by international co-operation. He proposed for the United States to invite the maritime nations of the world to a conference to establish a "universal system" of meteorology, and he was the leading spirit of a pioneer scientific conference when it met in Brussels in 1853. Within a few years, nations owning three fourths of the shipping of the world were sending their oceanographic observations to Maury at the Naval Observatory, where the information was evaluated and the results given worldwide distribution.


Maury was staunchly against secession and in 1860 he wrote letters to the governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland urging them to stop the momentum towards war. Only when Virginia seceded in April 1861, did Maury resign his commission in the US Navy, declining to fight against his native state. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Maury joined the Confederacy.


Aware of the lack of a navy in the Confederacy, Maury advocated for one. Partly for this reason, partly because of his international reputation, and partly due to jealousy of superior officers who wanted him placed at some distance, in September 1862 he was ordered on special service to England. There he sought to purchase and fit ships for the Confederacy and persuade European powers to recognize and support the Confederacy. Maury traveled to England, Ireland, and France, acquiring and fitting out ships for the Confederacy and soliciting supplies. Through speeches and newspaper publications, Maury called for European nations to intercede on behalf of the Confederacy and help bring an end the American Civil War. Maury established relations for the Confederacy with Emperor Napoleon III of France and Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who, on April 10, 1864, was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico.


Upon his resignation from the U.S. Navy, the Virginia governor appointed Maury commander of the Virginia Navy. When this was consolidated into the Confederate Navy, Maury was made a commander in the Confederate States Navy and appointed as chief of the Naval Bureau of Coast, Harbor, and River Defense. In this role, Maury helped develop the first electrically controlled naval mine, which caused havoc for Union shipping. He had experience with the transatlantic cable and electricity flowing through wires underwater when working with Cyrus West Field and Samuel Finley Breese Morse. The naval mines, called torpedoes in that time, were similar to present-day contact mines and were said by the Secretary of the Navy in 1865 "to have cost the Union more vessels than all other causes combined."


Maury wanted to open up the Amazon to free navigation in his plan. However, Emperor Pedro II's government firmly rejected the proposals, and Maury's proposal received little to no support in the United States, especially in the slave-owning south which sought to perpetuate the institution and the riches made off the yoke of slavery. By 1855, the proposal had certainly failed. Brazil authorized free navigation to all nations in the Amazon in 1866 but only when it was at war against Paraguay when free navigation in the area had become necessary.

The war brought ruin to many in Fredericksburg, where Maury's immediate family lived. Maury was in the process returning to the Confederacy when in the West Indies he learned of its collapse. On the advice of Robert E. Lee and other friends, he decided not to return to Virginia, but sent a letter of his surrender to Union naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico and headed for Mexico, where Maximilian, whom he had met in Europe, appointed him as "Imperial Commissioner of Colonization" Maury and Maximilian's plan was to entice former Confederates to immigrate to Mexico, building Carlotta and New Virginia Colony for displaced Confederates and immigrants from other lands. Upon learning of the plan, Lee wrote Maury saying "The thought of abandoning the country, and all that must be left in it, is abhorrent to my feelings, and I prefer to struggle for its restoration, and share its fate, rather than to give up all as lost." In the end, the plan did not attract the intended immigrants and Maximilian, facing increasing opposition in Mexico, ended it. Maury then returned to England in 1866 and found work. In 1868 he was pardoned by the federal government and returned, accepting a teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, holding the chair of physics. While in Lexington he completed a physical survey of Virginia. He lectured extensively and advocated for the creation of a state agricultural college as an adjunct to Virginia Military Institute. This led to the establishment in 1872 at Blacksburg of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, known today as Virginia Tech. Maury was offered the position as its first president but turned it down because of his age.


Maury advocated the creation of an agricultural college to complement the institute. That led to the establishment of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Virginia, in 1872. He declined the offer to become its first president partly because of his age. He had previously been suggested as president of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1848 by Benjamin Blake Minor in his publication the Southern Literary Messenger. He considered becoming president of St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, the University of Alabama, and the University of Tennessee. It appears that he preferred being close to General Robert E. Lee in Lexington, where Lee was president of Washington College, from statements that he made in letters. Maury served as a pall bearer for Lee.


Matthew Fontaine Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia, is named after him. . Matthew Maury Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, was built in 1929. Nearby Arlington, Va., renamed its 1910 Clarendon Elementary to honor Maury in 1944; Since 1976, the building has been home to the Arlington Arts Center. There is a county historical marker outside the former school. Matthew Fontaine Maury School in Fredericksburg was built in 1919-1920, and closed in 1980. The building was converted into condominiums, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Adjoining it is Maury Stadium, built in 1935, and still used for local high school sports events.


Ships have been named in his honor, including various vessels named USS Maury; USS Commodore Maury (SP-656), a patrol vessel and minesweeper of World War I; and a World War II Liberty Ship. Additionally, Tidewater Community College, based in Norfolk, Virginia, owns the R/V Matthew F. Maury. The ship is used for oceanography research and student cruises. In March 2013, the US Navy launched the oceanographic survey ship USNS Maury (T-AGS-66).


On July 2, 2020, the mayor of Richmond ordered the removal of a statue of Maury erected in 1929 on Richmond's Monument Avenue. The mayor used his emergency powers to bypass a state-mandated review process, calling the statue a "severe, immediate and growing threat to public safety."

Family Life

Matthew had several children, his son was the only one present during his death.

🎂 Upcoming Birthday

Currently, Matthew Fontaine Maury is 216 years, 6 months and 30 days old. Matthew Fontaine Maury will celebrate 217th birthday on a Saturday 14th of January 2023. Below we countdown to Matthew Fontaine Maury upcoming birthday.


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