Maria Mitchell

Not to be confused with Maia Mitchell, Australian actress and singer.
Maria Mitchell
Maria Mitchell.jpg
Maria Mitchell, painting by H. Dasell, 1852
Born(1818-08-01)August 1, 1818
Nantucket, Massachusetts,
United States
DiedJune 28, 1889(1889-06-28) (aged 70)
Lynn, Massachusetts,
United States
Known forDiscovery of C/1847 T1
First female U.S. professional astronomer
AwardsKing of Denmark's Cometary Prize Medal, 1848
Scientific career
InstitutionsNautical Almanac Office, Vassar College, Vassar College Observatory

Maria Mitchell [pronounced "mə-RYE-ə"] (August 1, 1818 – June 28, 1889) was an American astronomer, who in 1847 by using a telescope, discovered a comet, which as a result became known as "Miss Mitchell's Comet."[1] She won a gold medal prize for her discovery, which was presented to her by King Frederick VI of Denmark. On the medal was inscribed "Non Frustra Signorum Obitus Speculamur et Ortus" in Latin (taken from Georgics by Virgil (Book I, line 257)[2] (English: "Not in vain do we watch the setting and rising [of the stars]").[3] Mitchell was the first American woman to work as a professional astronomer.[4][5]

The third of ten children, she was raised in the Quaker religion, but later adopted Christian Unitarianism.[6][7][8]

Early years

Maria Mitchell[9]

Maria Mitchell was born in Nantucket, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. She was the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Peter Foulger and Mary Morrill Foulger, and through them was a first cousin four times removed of Benjamin Franklin. She had nine brothers and sisters. Her parents, William Mitchell and Lydia Coleman Mitchell, were Quakers. One of the tenets of the Quaker religion was intellectual equality between the sexes and Maria Mitchell thrived in the broader Nantucket community in which such equality was highly regarded.

Maria's parents, like other Quakers, valued education and insisted on giving her the same access to education as boys received. And Maria was fortunate that her father was a dedicated public school teacher who pursued an avid interest in mathematics and astronomy; he saw to it that Maria, who especially showed interest and talent, and all his children were indoctrinated with knowledge of astronomy.[10] Additionally, Nantucket's importance as a whaling port meant that wives of sailors were left for months, sometimes years, to manage affairs at home while their husbands were at sea, thus fostering an atmosphere of relative independence and equality for the women who called the island home.[11]

After attending Elizabeth Gardner small school in her earliest childhood years, Maria attended the North Grammar school, where William Mitchell was the first principal. Two years following the founding of that school, when Maria was 11, her father founded his own school on Howard Street. There, she was a student and also a teaching assistant to her father.[12] At home, Maria's father taught her astronomy using his personal telescope.[13] At age 12 1/2, she aided her father in calculating the exact moment of a solar eclipse.[14]

Her father's school closed, and afterwards she attended Unitarian minister Cyrus Peirce's school for young ladies. Later, she worked for Peirce as his teaching assistant before she opened her own school in 1835. She made the decision to allow nonwhite children to attend her school, a controversial move as the local public school was still segregated at the time.[15] One year later, she was offered a job as the first librarian of the Nantucket Atheneum,[15] where she worked for 20 years.[16]

Other Languages
العربية: ماريا ميتشل
asturianu: Maria Mitchell
azərbaycanca: Mariya Mitçell
تۆرکجه: ماریا میچل
Ελληνικά: Μαρία Μίτσελ
español: Maria Mitchell
français: Maria Mitchell
հայերեն: Մարիա Միտչել
italiano: Maria Mitchell
Nederlands: Maria Mitchell
norsk nynorsk: Maria Mitchell
português: Maria Mitchell
Simple English: Maria Mitchell
slovenčina: Maria Mitchellová
slovenščina: Maria Mitchell
Türkçe: Maria Mitchell
Tiếng Việt: Maria Mitchell