Helen M. Rozwadowski and Penelope Hardy
Title: Rethinking Matthew Fontaine Maury’s Racist Legacy in the Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences
Abstract: 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.
Bio: https://history.uconn.edu/faculty-by-name/helen-m-rozwadowski/# Helen M. Rozwadowski is Professor of History and founder of the University of Connecticut’s Maritime Studies program. Her recent book, Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans (2018), is published by Reaktion Books, an independent publisher of innovative nonfiction. She was awarded the History of Science Society’s Davis Prize for best book directed to a wide public audience for Fathoming the Ocean: The Discovery and Exploration of the Deep Sea (2005). She has written or edited four other books; was awarded the William E. & Mary B. Ritter Fellowship of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; has held distinguished lectureships at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, Stockholm University in Sweden, and the University of Kiel in Germany; and has received grants and fellowships from the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, Germany, the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Science Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution.
https://www.uwlax.edu/profile/phardy/ Penelope K. Hardy is an assistant professor of history at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She has published on topics including military-scientific partnerships in the US and UK, meteorology in interwar Germany, and ocean mapping as both technical feat and imaginative exercise, and she is currently finishing a book on the role of ocean-going research vessels in the development of modern scientific understanding of the oceans and the ocean-atmosphere system and the establishment of oceanography as a field in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She has received numerous research fellowships, including from the Smithsonian Institution, the American Meteorological Society, the Huntington Library, and the North American Society for Oceanic History, and is co-founder of an international working group examining the history of ocean science, technology, and medicine.