MAURY, MATTHEW FONTAINE (1806–1873). The 1855 publication
of Matthew Fontaine Maury’s Physical Geography of the Sea inaugurated the
distinct discipline of oceanography, but earlier essays under the pseudonym
“Harry Bluff” helped shape reform of the antebellum U.S. Navy. Born in
Fredericksburg, Virginia, Maury pursued a career as an officer in the U.S.
Navy that led to his appointment as superintendent of the National Observatory in Washington, D.C. Maury’s greatest contribution to literature was
an oblique one: his research leading to the 1851 publication of his Whale
Chart and Explanations and Sailing Directions to Accompany the Wind and
Current Charts inspired Herman Melville’s* chapter “The Chart” in MobyDick* (1851).
On the eve of the Civil War, Maury resigned from the U.S. Navy to enter
the service of the Confederacy, first as a naval officer and later as a diplomat.
In 1868 he returned to the United States to teach at the Virginia Military
Institute, where he remained for the rest of his life. Charles Lee Lewis has
written Matthew Fontaine Maury: The Pathfinder of the Seas (1927).