Matthew Fontaine Maury

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Matthew Fontaine Maury — Biography  (1888) 
by Diane Fontaine Maury-Corbin

Transcribed by William Maury Morris II aka "Brother Officer". Edited and Illustrated 2009. Original edition (London, 1888), by Diane Fontaine Corbin edited by Sir Clements Robert Markham.

Also see: "Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon", Vol. I, 1853 by William Lewis Herndon, Lieutenant, U.S.N. and "Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon", Vol. II, 1854 by Lardner Gibbon, Lieutenant, U.S.N. They both are are conected to this book. Commander William Lewis Herndon is a 1st cousin of Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury and an uncle to Major General Dabney Herndon Maury. Source text for this book donated by William Maury Morris II.

Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury - Pathfinder of the Seas


Ancestry of Matthew Fontaine Maury — Virginian Planters — Huguenots in Virginia — The Reverend James Maury — His Classical School and Scholars — Thomas Jefferson and the Great North-West — Richard Maury and Diana (Minor) Maury — Birth of Matthew Fontaine Maury — Emigration to Tennessee — State of society in Tennessee — Occupations and amusements of Maury and his brothers — Religious training — Maury’s School life


Notice of the Career of Maury’s eldest brother — Life in the Navy — Left on the Marquesas Islands for two years — He is taken on board the ship Essex by Commodore Porter — Capture of the Essex at Valparaiso — At the Battle of Lake Champlain — Died at Sea — Matthew Fontaine Maury receives a Midshipman’s Warrant — Journey to take up his appointment — Adventures and entertainment by relations — Meets his future wife — Her parentage — Cruise on board the ship Brandywine — Cruise on the ship Vincennes — Visits the Marquesas — Passes his Examination — Buys a little seal for his sweetheart.


Appointed Master of the ship Falmouth on the Pacific Station — Melancholy anecdote — Literary studies under great difficulties — First study of Winds and Currents — Paper on the low barometer off Cape Horn — First Lieut. of the ship Dolphin — Return home in 1834 — Marriage — Publication of his work on navigation — Birth of his eldest daughter — Appointment to survey Southern Harbors — Visit to his parents in Tennessee — Fall from a stagecoach — Fracture of his leg — Long illness — Death of his parents — Application for employment.


Publication of Scraps From The Lucky Bag — Appointment to the charge of the Depot of Charts and Instruments at Washington — Letters respecting the work at the Observatory.


History of the Wind and Current Charts — Letter from Captain Phinny of the Bark Gertrude — Great races between four clipper ships, sailing from New York to San Francisco by the Wind and Current Charts — One Ship wins the race of 16,000 miles by three hours — The Senate of the United States proposes to remunerate Maury for his Wind and Current Charts, but never carried out their proposal — Annual savings to the commerce of the world effected by the charts — Abstract Logs — Sailing Directions — Physical Geography of the Sea — Maury’s rule of conduct in scientific investigations — The Brussels Conference — Honors conferred upon Matthew Fontaine Maury by the governments of foreign countries.


Plans for meteorological co-operation on land — Invitation to Agricultural Societies to communicate observations for the construction of meteorological Land Charts — Proposal for a system of warnings to Farmers — Opposition he met with — His prophecy about the Weather Bureau — Weather Forecasts — Extracts from Mr. Harlan’s Report before the Senate, praying for an extension of meteorological observations for the benefit of farmers — Letter to Mr. Dorr on the same subject — Honor to whom Honor is due — List of letters on this subject to be found at the Observatory — Fulfillment of Matthew Fontaine Maury’s Prophecy.


Deep Sea Soundings — Maury prophesies existence of the Telegraphic Plateau — John Mercer Brooke’s invention of a deep sea lead — Extract of a letter from the Secretary of the Navy — Maury’s letters to the Secretary, suggesting the place for the cable, and the kind of line to be used — Dinner at New York to celebrate the first arrival of a message across the ocean — Cyrus W. Field’s speech — The cable ceases to work — Maury explains the cause — Letters on file at the Observatory on this subject.


The Naval Retiring Board


Publications in the periodical press while at the Observatory — Observations of the rise and fall of the Mississippi “Drowned Lands” — Steam Navigation to China — Ship canal schemes — Inca Papers — Their defense in a letter to his cousin, Mrs. Blackford of N.Y.


Exploration of the Amazon by Captain William Lewis Herndon — Loss of the ship Central America — Maury’s official report of that shipwreck, and the death of her gallant commander — Monument to William Lewis Herndon at Annapolis — Maury’s Steam Lanes — Present of $5,000 and a service of plate from the merchants and underwriters of New York — Part of an address to the University of Virginia.


Maury’s personal appearance and manners — Life in his family — The way he wrote his books — How he dressed in the morning — The nicknames he gave his children — How he taught his daughters round the breakfast table — The borrowed book — The brass telescope — The trip to Europe and visit to Wrottesley Hall.


Maury’s letter on the harmony between science and revealed religion — The work of Colonel Smith of the Virginia Military Institute — Letters to his daughters after marriage — Correspondence during his lecturing tour, and extracts — Letters to Bishop Otey — Maury’s address on the study of Physical Geography.


Breaking out of the Civil War — Maury’s letter to Bishop Otey — Maury’s Appeals to the Governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware — Letters to Mr. Hasbrouck of Newburgh — Lincoln’s Proclamation calling on Virginia to furnish troops to subjugate South Carolina — Reply of Virginia — Maury resigns his commission and leaves Washington — Offers from the Grand Duke Constantine and from France — Maury’s reply — Defence of Maury’s decision in letters to a friend — Maury appointed Chief of the Seacoast, Harbour, and River Defenses in the South.


Torpedo Warfare — Maury Invents an electric torpedo for Harbour and Land Defence — Indifference on the part of the authorities — Commander Maury’s experiment — He mines the James River — Maury’s plans and drawings fall into the hands of the enemy — Panic caused by fear of torpedoes in the Federal Fleet — Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury on the necessity for a Confederate Navy — The whole South arming for defence — Maury’s two sons become volunteers — Colonel Richard Launcelot Maury shot through the body — Lieutenant John Herndon Maury slain at Vicksburg, Mississippi. — Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury in England — Orders from the Confederate Secretary of the Navy to proceed to England — Leaves Charleston with his youngest son, Matthew Fontaine Maury Jr. — Maury organizes a society in England to promote cessation of hostilities — Petition to the United States for peace — Letter from chronometer-maker offering Maury a home — Letters about his son at school in England, and on news from home.


Mexico - Maury’s residence and occupation in England — Departure for the West Indies — Tidings of the fall of the Confederacy — M. F. Maury surrenders his sword — His son “Brave” returns home — Letter from Dr. Brodie Herndon on the condition of Virginia after the war — Maury resolves to go to Mexico — Reception by the Emperor Maximilian — Appointed Commissioner of Immigration — Explains his motives and course of action in a letter to Dr. Tremlett — The decree respecting immigration — Maury’s explanatory memorandum — His scheme disapproved by friends — Letters from Commodore Jansen and General Lee — Maury’s defence to his cousin Rutson Maury — Arrival of his son Richard at Mexico — Maury goes on leave to England — Mrs. Maury and her family at Liverpool — Letters from Mexico to his wife and children — An imperial dinner — Keeping house — Description of the journey from Mexico to the coast — Maury’s reply to the Emperor’s intimation that the Immigration department was abolished — M. F. Maury’s introduction of the Chinchona cultivation into Mexico — Causes which led to the fall of the empire — Desertion of the French — Death of the Emperor — Maximillian’s tomb at Vienna — Melancholy fate of the Empress and her last letter to Matthew Fontaine Maury.


In England, 1866-68 — Matthew Fontaine Maury’s arrival in England — Meeting with his family — The Maury Testimonial — Instructing French officers in defensive sea-mining at Paris — Matthew Fontaine Maury’s Electrical Torpedo School — Defence of Wurtemberg by electrical mines — M. F. Maury’s memorandum on the use of electrical torpedoes — Writing class-books on geography — Visits to Nottingham and to Wrottesley Hall — Arrival of his daughter, Mrs. Corbin — Maury’s love for his grandchild — He joins the Church and is confirmed with his children — Made LL.D. at Cambridge — Accepts appointment as Professor at the Virginia Military Institute — Returns to America 1868 — Occupations at Richmond.


Description of Lexington,Va. — Maury settled in his last home — Virginia the best route to the North-West — Plans for a Map showing a caste of the atmosphere — Reaches his sixty-sixth birthday — Arrangement to deliver addresses — Meteorological survey of Virginia — Resumes his lectures on agricultural meteorology — His address delivered at Nashville, St. Louis, and Richmond — In delivering his lectures of weather forecasts for farmers M.F. Maury overtaxes his strength — Maury comes home to Lexington to die. — His last illness — The last scene — His death — Sketch of his character — Particulars of his last days — Quotation of a notice in Temple Bar — His wishes respecting his obsequies.


--William Maury Morris II (talk) 13:10, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Biographical Chronology

Notes and Sources

Awards, Medals, Memorials, &c.

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.