Biographical Note

The Maury Project is named after U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873), considered by many to have been the founder of the science of oceanography in general and physical oceanography in particular. His book Physical Geography of the Sea, published in 1855, was the first textbook in oceanography.

Maury conducted the first systematic study of the ocean's surface currents and winds. He compiled information on currents and winds from the logbooks of sailor's observations stored at the U.S. Navy's Depot of Charts and Instruments and published the first charts of the North Atlantic in 1847. Maury estimated current direction and speed by analyzing deflections in a ship's course caused by surface ocean currents. Failure to correct a ship's course for current-induced deflections meant that the ship's final position at the end of a run would differ from its intended destination. Combining thousands of such observations, Maury constructed a map of average surface currents over much of the ocean. A skilled navigator having knowledge of currents can correct a ship's course to compensate for current-induced deflections.