Maury's Racist Legacy in Sciences #HonestPortrayals
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.