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In 1840, Matthew Fontaine Maury became the first superintendent of the US Naval Observatory, where he began his life's work mapping the great ocean routes and providing sailing directions for navigators the world over. This book uses his career as a window on 19th-century maritime history: the ascendancy of the US as a maritime power; the brief, but glorious, clipper-ship era of the 1850s; the rise of steam and steel; and the Civil War and the destruction of the US merchant fleet.