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Matthew F. Maury

An expert in marine analysis, naval meteorology and bathymetry, Matthew F. Maury earned his nickname as the “Pathfinder of the Seas,” by developing the first Wind and Current Charts in 1847. His efforts were directly responsible for the United States’ emergence as a powerful seafaring nation unequaled in its knowledge of the Earth’s oceans, winds and currents.

Maury was the quintessential marine analyst, comparing thousands of logbooks stored in Navy warehouses on any given route and deducing areas of wide differences and recommending certain areas of the oceans that should be avoided at different times of the year.

Maury is considered the founder of naval meteorology because he conceived the idea of a universal system of meteorological observations on both land and sea. In 1853, he organized and represented the United States in the first International Maritime Meteorology Conference in Brussels. This led to uniform weather-reporting systems for 13 nations. His 1855 publication “Physical Oceanography of the Sea” is considered the first modern textbook of oceanography and won Maury international fame, along with the title “Father of Oceanography.”

Maury also played a significant role in developing a method for deep-sea sounding and bottom profiling of the ocean. In 1858, this bathymetric data was instrumental in determining the location between Newfoundland and Ireland for the first trans-Atlantic cable.

Today, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency proudly continues Maury’s legacy. NGA’s Pilot Charts, which depict averages in prevailing winds and currents, air and sea temperatures, wave heights, ice limits, visibility, barometric pressure, and weather conditions at different times of the year, are directly descended from Maury’s Wind and Current charts. NGA marine analysts embody Maury’s analytical skills by collecting, analyzing, maintaining and disseminating navigation safety information to the Agency’s customer and mission partners. NGA also continues Maury’s bathymetric endeavors by evaluating and extracting hydrographic and bathymetric data to support its safety in navigation mission.