Chapter

Matthew Fontaine Maury's “Sea of Fire”: Hydrography, Biogeography, and Providence in the Tropics

D. Graham Burnett

in Tropical Visions in an Age of Empire

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2005 | ISBN: 9780226164717
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226164700 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226164700.003.0007
Matthew Fontaine Maury's “Sea of Fire”: Hydrography, Biogeography, and Providence in the Tropics

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This chapter discusses the hydrographic mapping of Matthew Fontaine Maury. The significance of his mapping methods was important for the development of oceanography and for his particular conception of tropicality. It lay firmly in the tradition of natural theology. But far from being an obstacle, this provided a congenial frame for his Humboldtian vision of science. The chapter also discusses Maury understanding of the earth's tropical zones. Maury's natural theological vision of the sea is not a blind ally in the history of oceanography but a legitimate, significant, and even, potentially, a constitutive episode in the history of the sciences of the sea. Maury not only extended a metrical, collative natural theological framework to the dark spaces of the sea, he also extended a system of enlightening scientific observation to sailors, a notoriously benighted population.

Keywords: hydrographic mapping; tropical; science; oceanography; Matthew Fontaine Maury

Chapter.  6967 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Colonialism and Imperialism

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