Lest We Forget

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

No longer able to observe the forces of nature from the deck of a ship, Maury began a close study of the huge piles of ships' logs stored at his headquarters. Long ignored as mere administrative records, they became for Maury a wealth of observational information as recorded over many years by seagoing captains. In 1847 he published the results of his research in another book, Wind and Current Chart of the North Atlantic, in which he contended that if the winds and currents he had plotted were followed, the time required for ocean passages could be significantly reduced. Seasoned mariners initially resented a desk-bound "sailor" telling them how to do their jobs, but when a ship following Maury's suggestions made a voyage to South America that cut ten days from the usual time, his theories soon gained wide acceptance.

In 1855, Maury wrote his pioneering work on oceanography, The Physical Geography of the Sea and Its Meteorology , which begins with the poetic evocation: "One planet is invested with two great oceans; one visible, the other invisible; one underfoot, the other overhead; one entirely envelopes it, the other covers about two-thirds of its surface."

Maury also wrote a number of influential essays, some of which advocated the establishment of an academy for primary naval officer training. He was the guiding hand behind an international congress on oceanography held in Brussels in 1853, at which a uniform system for recording oceanographic and meteorological data was established. With such information pouring in, he was able to draft wind and current charts for all the major trade routes of the world.

The Civil War brought an end to his career in the U.S. Navy—although he opposed slavery, he chose to go with his home state of Virginia into the Confederacy—but it did not end his renown. The scientific achievements of this desk-bound pathfinder earned him numerous honors from seagoing nations of the world. Several ships have borne his name, and, perhaps most fitting, midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy today study science and engineering in Maury Hall.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy and Brown Water, Black Berets .
 

Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

More by this Author

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Guest Lecturer
12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More

 
 

Conferences and Events

2014 U.S. Naval Institute History Conference

Wed, 2014-10-01

The 2014 Naval History Conference is hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and the U.S. Naval Academywith support from The William M...

Maritime Security Dialogue

Defense Forum Washington 2014

Newseum - Knight Conference Center

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Guest Speaker

Thu, 2014-10-02

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Thu, 2014-10-02

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