Matthew Fontaine Maury

Matthew Fontaine Maury

1806 - 1873
by David F. Coppedge

Matthew Maury, the “Pathfinder of the Seas,” was an influential 19th century oceanographer and geographer who made many important contributions that helped navigators chart wind and ocean currents. It is reported that he was inspired to discover ocean currents from Psalm 8:8, which mentions the “paths of the seas.”

1   O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2  Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Matthew Maury looked for the paths of the seas that the Bible indicated are there. He found them.

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Maury’s life overlapped much of Darwin’s, but their paths were very different. Commander Maury believed in God and did not hesitate to cite Scripture as an authority for science, even when criticized for it as secularism was on the rise. He has been called the Father of Modern Oceanography and the Scientist of the Seas. His work was of immense benefit to seamen and navigators, because his study of ocean currents enabled swift and reliable transport across the seas.

For this honorable scientist, we’re going to point to other online biographies that tell his story well. There are some easily accessible treatments of Maury’s life story you can find at Apologetics Press, Answers in Genesis and ICR. Take a moment to learn how Scripture inspired science in a period when others were turning toward the fad of evolution.

For those who doubt whether Maury actually connected his discovery to Psalm 8, check the website of Steve Rudd who did some detailed background investigation and concluded from contemporary sources that the story is true.

The Library of Congress has an online collection of handwritten letters and documents from Maury.

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