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Matthew Fontaine Maury Papers Edit


MS 0103


  • 1833-1873 (Creation)


  • 175 items (Whole)


  • Abstract

    The Matthew Fontaine Maury Papers consist largely of personal letters written by Maury to various members of his immediate family, 1840-1873.

  • Scope and Contents

    The Matthew Fontaine Maury Papers consist primarily of letters written by Maury to various members of his family, including daughter Diana Fontaine Maury Corbin, son-in-law Spotswood Wellford Corbin, and wife Ann Herndon Maury. Other correspondents include Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, and Empress Carlotta. In addition to personal and domestic matters, topics include Maury's lecture series, his career at the National Observatory in Washington, D.C., Confederate service in Richmond, activities in England, colonization efforts in Mexico, and his professorship at the Virginia Military Institute. The papers also include misc. related correspondence, and printed material.

  • Biographical / Historical

    Matthew Fontaine Maury (b. 1806 d. 1873), naval officer and oceanographer known as the "Pathfinder of the Seas," was notable for his pioneering scientific work in the fields of navigation, hydrography, and meteorology. He joined the United States Navy at age 19 and in 1842 was named head of the Navy's hydrographical office and of the United State Naval Observatory. Beginning in the 1830's, he published a number of significant works on the Gulf Stream, ocean currents, and navigation, and was involved in research concerning deep-sea sounding and transoceanic cables.

    A native of Virginia, Maury resigned his commission as Commander in the U. S. Navy at the outbreak of Civil War in April 1861. He entered the Confederate Navy and undertook research in the new technology of torpedo warfare; he was subsequently ordered to England as a special agent with instructions to purchase ships for the Confederate government. At war's end he was enroute to the United States with a cargo of torpedo equipment when, upon arriving in port at Havana, he learned that the war had ended. Maury then went to Mexico, where he served Emperor Maximilian, and later returned to England where he worked until 1868.

    The last five years of Maury's life were spent as a Professor of Physics at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. At VMI, Maury did not have regular classroom duties, but instead gave occasional lectures to the cadets and was primarily involved in overseeing an extensive physical survey of Virginia. He died in 1873.

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  • Conditions Governing Access

    There are no restrictions

  • Conditions Governing Use

    Manuscript collections in the VMI Archives are made available for educational and research use. The VMI Archives should be cited as the source. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright holders. Materials from our collections may not be redistributed, published or reproduced without permission from the VMI Archives. Contact the VMI Archives for additional information

  • Preferred Citation

    Matthew Fontaine Maury Papers, MS 0103, Virginia Military Institute Archives, Lexington, Virginia.