Maury's Racist Legacy in Sciences #HonestPortrayals

Rethinking Matthew Fontaine Maury’s Racist Legacy in the Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences

Helen M. Rozwadowski and Penelope Hardy
Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Colloquium
University of Wisconsin
Aired on March 22, 2021

Amidst recent calls in the United States and elsewhere to remove statues and other references that glorify historically racist figures, we offer a reexamination of nineteenth-century naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury, who was well-known during his lifetime for his contributions to navigation, ocean science, and meteorology. While Maury made significant contributions toward understanding and representing the ocean-atmosphere system and argued for increased support from both government and public for such studies, his work, including his science, was also inextricably involved in his nation's imperialist goals. Before and after his resignation from the United States navy to join the Confederacy during the American Civil War, Maury worked for the perpetuation and expansion of race-based slavery. For these reasons, we argue that scientists, historians, and the public need to rethink depictions of Maury that glorify his accomplishments without interrogating their darker side. Presenting honest portrayals is not only historically responsible but also aids the larger project to recruit and retain more diverse students and scientists.


Indian Slavery

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absolute power depends on absolute control over knowledge, which in turn necessitates absolute corruption

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“Politicians, Priests, and psychiatrists often face the same problem: how to find the most rapid and permanent means of changing a man’s belief…The problem of the doctor and his nervously ill patient, and that of the religious leader who sets out to gain and hold new converts, has now become the problem of whole groups of nations, who wish not only to confirm certain political beliefs within their boundaries, but to proselytize the outside world.” – William Sargant “Battle of the Mind”

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