Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/414

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400
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
SKETCH OF MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY.

MRS. CORBIN, Lieutenant Maury's daughter and biographer, invokes for her father the reverence of the whole civilized world; for, she says in her Life, "the best part of his life was devoted to the performance of services which conferred benefits on the seafaring class of all countries, while the ideas to which he first gave birth have since borne fruit, and are likely to be useful to the whole human race." She adds that "in Maury we have two characteristics, each valuable in itself, but which almost invariably produce great results when they are combined. He was endowed with extraordinary powers of application and unflagging industry in working out the driest details. But he also possessed a vivid imagination, so that the dry bones of his new science were endowed with life and interest by the magic touch of his descriptive pen. It was Maury who created the science of the physical geography of the sea, and gave that impetus to its study which, in other hands, continues to produce results alike of practical and speculative importance."

Matthew Fontaine Maury was born in Spottsylvania County, Virginia, January 24, 1806, and died in Lexington, Va., February 1, 1873. He was descended on his father's side from two families of Huguenot exiles, already connected by marriage before they left France, who settled in Virginia in 1714. His father was the sixth son of the Rev. James Maury, an Episcopal clergyman and teacher of Albemarle County, Virginia, who numbered among his pupils three boys who afterward became Presidents of the United States, and five signers of the Declaration of Independence. This scholar appears to have been already interested in the great Northwest, and his speculations respecting the Missouri River, the Western mountains, and the rivers beyond them, then hardly known, greatly impressed his pupil Jefferson, who, when he became President, secured the dispatch of the expedition of Lewis and Clark.

When young Matthew was in his fifth year the family removed to Tennessee, near Franklin, where they lived the life of early settlers in a new country. His first ambition to become a mathematician was excited by an old cobbler "who used to send the shoes home to his customers with the soles all scratched over with little x 's and y 's." A fall from a tree in his twelfth year, by which his back was injured, for a time at least seriously, seems to have marked the turning-point of his life. His father, thinking him permanently disabled, yielding to his wish, sent him to Harpeth Academy, of which the Rev. J. H. Otey, afterward Protestant