Matthew Fontaine Maury, an American hy-drographer, born in Spottsvlvania co., Va., Jan. 14, 1806, died in Lexington, Va.. Feb. 1, 1873. His parents removed while he was still young to Tennessee. In 1825 he entered the naval Rerviee as midshipman, and was appointed to the Brandy wine, then fitting out to convey Lafayette to France. He returned with this vessel in 1 826, and made a voyage in her to the Pacific, where he was transferred to the sloop of war Vincennes, in which he circumnavigated the globe. During this cruise, and while yet a passed midshipman, he began his "Treatise on Navigation,1' which passed through several editions, and was used as a text book in the navy. In 1836 he was promoted to a lieutenancy, and received the appointment of astronomer to the South sea exploring expedition, but resigned it. In 1839 he met with an accident which resulted in permanent lameness and unfitted him for service afloat. He was now placed in charge of the depot of charts and instruments at Washington, afterward known as the hydrographical office; and upon the organization and union with it of the national observatory in 1844, he was made superintendent of the combined institutions.
Before this he had begun a series of investigations in what Humboldt has called the "physical geography of the sea," and had gathered many observations of the ocean winds and currents from the records of naval and merchant vessels. In some cases special cruises were made to supply data, until material was collected for a systematic study of the actual course of winds and currents. In 1844 he made known his conclusions respecting the Gulf stream, ocean currents, and great-circle sailing, in a paper read before the national institute, and printed under the title of " A Scheme for Rebuilding Southern Commerce.'1 With the accumulation of material the need was felt of systematizing the observations and records themselves, particularly as ships of different nations used different methods of observation and registry. Lieut. Maury accordingly entered into a project for assembling a general maritime conference, which at the suggestion of the United States government met in Brussels in 1853, and recommended a form of abstract log to be kept on board ships of war and merchant vessels.
The principal results of Maury's researches are embodied in the "Physical Geography of the Sea" (New York, 1856, several times revised and greatly enlarged; last ed., " Physical Geography of the Sea and its Meteorology," 1873). In 1855 Lieut. Maury was promoted to the rank of commander. On the outbreak of the civil war he resigned and was made a commodore in the confederate navy, and subsequently professor of physics in the Virginia military institute. He was a member of many of the principal scientific associations of America and Europe, and received valuable testimonials from several foreign governments. Besides the works already mentioned, he published "Letters on the Amazon and the Atlantic Slopes of South America;" " Relation between Magnetism and the Circulation of the Atmosphere," in the appendix to "Washington Astronomical Observations for 1846" (1851); "Astronomical Observations" (1853); "Letters concerning Lanes for the Steamers crossing the Atlantic " (1854); "Manual of Geography: a Complete Treatiso on Mathematical, Civil, and Physical Geography" (1871); and smaller works on geography.