How many heard of this major winter storm that hit the Midwest Thursday, February 21 two days ago? Or three days ago? Or more? How many have rushed out and purchased supplies, made arrangements to stay indoors, planned for the winter weather mayhem that is knocking at our door . . . and nearly breaking it down?
As the snow continues to fall down and many, hopefully, are snug in their warm little homes across the Midwest with plenty of supplies, let us take time to think of one of the men in our history that made this possible, Matthew Fontaine Maury.
Maury was born in 1806 and longed to become an officer in the United States Navy. Even at a young age, he began methodically studying the seas, the winds and ocean currents. Unfortunately (or fortunately for us), he had an injury to his leg that kept him from active duty but left more time for his studies. Through his dedication of learning, the length and time for transatlantic voyages decreased.
However, he did more than that.
In addition to his marvelous work on ocean currents for which he was awarded in many different ways and by many different nations on the earth at that time, he also concentrated on land weather forecasting and campaigned for the international sea and land weather service and promoted worldwide circulation of his findings. He even promoted the transcontinental railroad and advised on travel throughout the United States during harsh winter months.
When the Civil War broke out, Maury, a Virginian, felt obligated to resign from the United States Navy and side with the Confederate States of America. His work on behalf of the South created a breach between this amazing man and the United States when the war was over that lasted many years. However, he was soon absolved and reunited with the country he loved. He received a position as instructor of physics to the Virginia Military Institute and helped to develop an agricultural college section to that organization.
In his later years, he traveled across the world, accepting honors for his work and lecturing on oceanography, cartography, astronomy, history, meteorology, and geology.
So as we watch and prepare for storms such as today, let us remember that although we have satellite and cyberspace and Doppler radar, all this might not have happened so fortuitously without one amazing man, Matthew Fontaine Maury.
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