The Lazzaroni: Science and Scientists in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America

By Lillian B. Miller; Frederick Voss et al. | Go to book overview

Matthew Fontaine Maury 1806-1872

Of all the mid- nineteenth-century American scientists, none could have been more at odds with the Lazzaroni and the organizations they influenced than the famed oceanographer and marine meteorologist, Matthew Fontaine Maury. Most of them--and especially Alexander Bache and Joseph Henry--believed that he was a "fraud," doubting both his integrity as an individual and his scientific status. Those few who were willing to accept him as a scientist were quick to add "practical" to the title--a term which for them held distinctly pejorative connotations. Maury was an "amateur" in the sense that he lacked university training and experience in pure--i. e. theoretical--research. Since one of the Lazzaroni's important missions was to raise scientific standards by insisting upon professionalism, Maury's amateur standing immediately placed him beyond the pale of scientific acceptance. This was precisely what they were fighting against! Thus, while nations and cities feted the oceanographer for his lifelong efforts to discover the ways of the sea, he frequently came under attack when, as was his wont, he dared to preempt or question Lazzaroni projects and ambitions.

Born in Virginia and raised on a farm in Tennessee, Maury became an oceanographer as a result of his early experiences as a career naval officer. Having won his commission in 1825 on the recommendation of Sam Houston, then a young congressman from Maury's district, he spent his first years of active duty on extended cruises. On the last of these voyages, he served as ship's sailing master; and it was while carrying out the task of guiding his ship around hazardous Cape Horn without benefit of nautical guides that he first became cognizant of the appalling ignorance under which seamen were forced to operate. So began his career as a pioneer in oceanography.

Maury began systematically to study the water and wind currents of the ocean. His first results, published in 1834 In Silliman American

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The Lazzaroni: Science and Scientists in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Foreword ix
  • Lenders to the Exhibition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Alexander Dallas Bache 1806-1867 13
  • Benjamin Peirce 1809-1880 18
  • Louis Agassiz 1807-1873 24
  • Joseph Henry (1797-1878) 31
  • Oliver Wolcott Gibbs (1822-1908) 39
  • Charles Henry Davis (1807-1877) 43
  • Benjamin Apthorp Gould 1824-1896 49
  • John Fries Frazer 1812-1872 56
  • James Dwight Dana 1813-1895 59
  • Cornelius C. Felton 1807-1862 66
  • James Hall 1811-1898 70
  • Henry Wilson 1812-1875 74
  • Asa Gray 1810-1888 78
  • William Barton Rogers 1804-1882 85
  • Charles William Eliot 1834-1926 91
  • Matthew Fontaine Maury 1806-1872 97
  • Joseph Leidy 1823-1891 104
  • John William Draper 1811-1882 109
  • Spencer Fullerton Baird 1823-1887 114
  • Bibliography 120
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