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Maury, Matthew Fontaine (1806–1873)

  • By: Donald J. Zeigler
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Matthew Fontaine Maury is remembered today as the father of oceanography. During his lifetime, however, Maury identified himself with geography. In 1855, 30 years into his U.S. Navy career, the self-taught Maury pulled together the work he (and others) had done on Earth's oceans and atmosphere and published The Physical Geography of the Sea, a book that went through eight editions (reprinted into the 1930s) and was translated into six languages. Its title was posited by Alexander von Humboldt, who lauded Maury's scientific research. Oceanography came into vogue only after the HMS Challenger expedition (1872–1876), which had the effect of outmoding almost everything Maury had written. The most enduring contribution of The Physical Geography of the Sea was Maury's “Diagram of the Winds,” which became ...

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