Mary Watson Whitney

Mary Watson Whitney
Mary Watson Whitney.jpg
Mary Watson Whitney
BornSeptember 11, 1847
DiedJanuary 21, 1921(1921-01-21) (aged 73)
Scientific career
InstitutionsVassar Observatory

Mary Watson Whitney (September 11, 1847 – January 20, 1921) was an American astronomer and for 22 years the head of the Vassar Observatory where 102 scientific papers were published under her guidance.

Early life and education

Whitney was born on September 11, 1847, in Waltham, Massachusetts. Her mother was Mary Watson Crehore and her father was Samuel Buttrick Whitney.[1] Her father was successful in real estate and wealthy enough to provide her with a good education for a woman at the time. She went to school in Waltham where she excelled in mathematics and graduated from the public high school in 1863. She was privately tutored for one year before she entered Vassar College in 1865, where she met the astronomer Maria Mitchell. During her time at Vassar College, her father died and her brother was lost at sea. She obtained her degree in 1868.[1]

In the years 1869 to 1870 she took some courses about quaternions and celestial mechanics by Benjamin Peirce (at Harvard). At the time, women could not be admitted to Harvard so she attended as a guest.[1] She obtained her master's degree from Vassar in 1872, afterwards she went to Zürich for 3 years where she studied mathematics and celestial mechanics.[1]