Friday, May 05, 2006

Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell was an astronomer in an era when women were not even allowed to vote, or show their ankles below the hemlines of their dresses, much less be influential in a profession dominated by men.

She was born August 1, 1818 in Nantucket, Massachusetts USA. Although she attended Cyrus Pierce's School for Young Ladies, in her younger years she was primarily taught by her father and then self-taught afterwards. Maria Mitchell was the third child of William and Lydia Mitchell, a Quaker family with ten children.

During her professional career Maria had a number of accomplishments. On October 1, 1847 she discovered a telescopic comet. For this achievement she received a gold medal from King Frederick of Denmark. She was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Philosophical Society. She became a Professor of Astronomy at Vassar College and founded, and served as president, of the American Association for the Advancement of Women. She even led one session of the Women's Congress. She was given an honorary degree from Columbia college and a crater on the moon was named after her.

After her death in June 28, 1889 in Lynn, Massachusetts, she was posthumously recognized with a tablet with her name placed in the New York University Hall of Fame. Her name has been carved ina frieze at the Boston Public Library and she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Maria Mitchell was clearly a gutsy woman!


Copyright M. A. Webb, 2004-2006. All Rights Reserved

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