Anglican Morning Devotion, 16 March 2022 Anno Domini
a ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. 25For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. 28Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 31Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 32Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.” (Psalm 107:23-32; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
Sad to say, many readers of this devotion may never have heard of Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873) who is best known as Father of the Science of Oceanography, and Pathfinder of the Seas. “Nicknamed ‘Pathfinder of the Seas,’ Matthew Fontaine Maury made important contributions to charting wind and ocean currents. His studies proved that by following the winds and currents ships could cross the ocean in fewer days than ever before.”1
His name is found at the top of Naval navigation charts even to this day unless expunged by “cancel; culture.” Maury was the first superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory (1842-1861) and the primary advocate of the establishment of the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. He was a humble man of strong Christian faith and character who developed many improvements in procedural operations of the US Navy. His periodical, “The Lucky Bag,” was adopted as the cadet periodical to this day of the Naval Academy. He also was an ardent student of meteorology – an interest inspired by the biblical revelation of wind currents published 3,000 years before science came to grips with them. “The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. 7All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.” (Ecclesiastes 1:6-7)
Maury was a staunch believer in the Word of God and this faith was the basis of his work in discovering the great ocean currents and thereby reducing ocean navigation times significantly. This was his most profound work that benefitted naval and commercial shipping more than any other single discovery. The kernel of his curiosity in ocean currents came from Psalms – “The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. 9O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” )Psalm 8:8-9) Maury resolved to study and reveal those paths in the sea to which the psalmist referred. He devoted his time at the Naval Observatory to the study of marine meteorology and navigation soliciting the wind and current charts from both Naval and commercial vessels. His findings were published in his work, Physical Geography of the Sea, in 1855.
The work of Maury, except in US Navy annals, seems to have been suppressed owing to his becoming a Commodore in the Confederate Navy being from Virginia. Even there he contributed to the science of Naval warfare in many ways, one in particular – the electronically activated torpedo and mine. This was what prompted Admiral Farragut’s popular exclamation in Mobile Bay during the Civil War – “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
Maury had an exemplary Christian testimony with his family and peers. He often looked for opportunities to share that science and the Bible were never at odds with one another. One such example can be seen in the following comments he made when speaking to an audience at the University of the South in southern Tennessee: “I have been blamed by men of science, both in this country and in England, for quoting the Bible in confirmation of the doctrines of physical geography. The Bible, they say, was not written for scientific purposes, and is therefore of no authority in matters of science. I beg pardon: the Bible is authority for everything it touches. What would you think of the historian who should refuse to consult the historical records of the Bible because the Bible was not written for the purposes of history? The Bible is true; and science is true…they are both true;…and when your man of science with vain and hasty conceit announces the discovery of disagreement between them, rely upon it the fault is not with the Witness of His records, but with the ‘worm’ who essays to interpret evidence which he does not understand.”2
Such men can serve as a high mark for all of us to seek to attain.
1 Naval History and Heritage Command, National Museum of the U.S. Navy,To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond, Navigation, Biography: Matthew Fontaine Maury
2 George Mulfinger & Julia Mulfinger Orozco, Christian Men of Science. (Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2001), p. 137.