Navigation at sea was a matter of guesswork until well into the 19th century. Changing that became the obsession of Matthew Fontaine Maury. While others built railroads, Maury mapped highways of wind and current over the seas. Hearn uses Maury's career as a window on America's maritime development in the 19th century, including the clipper-ship era of the 1850s, the rise of steam and steel, and the Civil War.
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The Remarkable Story of a Seafaring Scientist
Tracks in the Sea captures a rich yet little-known chapter in the history of seafaring--the mapping of the oceans by Matthew Fontaine Maury, the father of modern navigation and ocean science. Voyages in the 1800s were risky endeavors. Navigation was uncertain and knowledge of prevailing winds and current had advanced little since Columbus. Hundreds of ships were lost each year; the cost in property and lives was enormous.
Maury changed all that. In a brilliant eighteen-year effort between 1842 and 1861--driving himself and his staff with relentless curiosity, ambition, adventurousness, and altruism--he transformed the oceans from trackless hazards into a network of highways marked by dependable winds and currents and showed shipmasters how to shave weeks and even months from voyages. His career coincided with the ascendance of America as a maritime power and with the culmination of the Great Age of Sail. In a world interconnected by maritime commerce, Maury's work was critically important not just to America but to all nations.
Now Tracks in the Sea resurrects the life and work of this unique and fascinating man. In tracing Maury's intellectual odyssey and the dramatic conflicts of his career, Chester Hearn shows us a pivotal era in seafaring and in the history of a raw young nation.About the Author:
Chester G. Hearn, retired vice president of a subsidiary of Combustion Engineering, is an avid amateur historian and the author of seventeen books about U.S. military history between the American Revolution and World War II.
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