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    Re: Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2014 Feb 7, 17:47 -0800

    While there are now many excellent articles on Wikipedia, the article on Maury is one of those trainwrecks that used to be so common. This one appears to have been written when Wikipedia was relatively new, and standards were low. It has "multiple issues" including a strong POV bias.

    Maury was one of the first great "hydrographers" in the USA, and a good case could be made that he was the world's first "oceanographer". He was, however, a man who was despised by some contemporaries who considered him a poor manager and a bad scientist, especially during his tenure as director of the new US Naval Observatory. Yet the sailing directions and charts whose publication he oversaw were revolutionary, transforming what had been "lore" and trade or state secrets into a type of science. Tragically, his achievements were almost erased when he resigned his commission in the US Navy and pledged his allegiance to his home, Virginia, and the Confederacy in the US Civil War. He actively sought European intervention on the behalf of the Confederacy, which made him a traitor from the point of view of Washington. Maury was a patriot to the Confederacy, and he remained so even after the war, which made him a romantic hero from the point of view of many Southerners. He did not surrender at the end of the war and sold out to Emperor Maximilian in Mexico, whose government was regarded as an illegitimate, un-democratic, dangerous enemy in Washington. Maury actively promoted the idea of a refuge for the Confederacy in Mexico and persuaded unrepentant Virginians to re-group there. But Maximilian was overthrown and executed. The Virginia colony collapsed. And eventually Maury returned to Virginia, a broken man. As I say, it was a tragedy.

    Today, the US Civil War is distant history. Maury stands as the world's first oceanographer. But historians are still divided on his legacy and his character.


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