Page:The Pathfinder of the Seas.djvu/76

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MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY

However scantily informed Maury may have been in the beginning as to the great advance in astronomical science recently made in Europe, his great energy and native ability soon enabled him to overcome any such handicaps. He assisted with his own hands in the installation of the instruments, in which he took great delight, writing that the Great Refraction Circle was such an exquisite piece of machinery and so beautiful that he would like to wear it round his neck as an ornament. He was constantly endeavoring to secure better and larger instruments, and wrote with pride when the Observatory, as far as equipment was concerned, became the second most important in the world and needed only a larger telescope to make it the very first of all. Maury quickly saw the value of the Electro-Chronograph, invented by John Locke of Cincinnati, in determining longitude with the aid of the magnetic telegraph, seeing that it would practically double the number of observations that one observer could make; and it was largely through him that Congress was persuaded to appropriate the $10,000 necessary for installing the instrument at the Observatory.

Maury was, moreover, by no means a mere figurehead in the making of astronomical observations, but soon mastered the details of this work which might have been left wholly to his subordinates. During the first two years he was the principal observer with the equatorial, and it is interesting to note how often his name appears as the observer in the published extracts from the notebooks of the Observatory. That he had much more than a mere passing interest in astronomy is evident from the following account of his emotions during an astronomical observation: "To me the simple passage