Maria Mitchell, a Professional Astronomer and Educator

Topics: Maria Mitchell, Astronomy, Cyrus Peirce Pages: 3 (936 words) Published: November 19, 2010
I came across many female astronomers but the one I chose to do my essay on inspired me the most with her achievements and being one of the first American women to work as a professional astronomer and educator, Maria Mitchell. She was born to be an astronomer as her passion for astronomy began at a very young age when her father began maintaining a small observatory. She discovered a new comet and worked out its orbit and added several new nebulae to sky maps. Her first achievement that brought her international recognition was when she discovered a telescopic comet in October of 1847 and was not only awarded a gold medal by the King but also a comet was named as “Miss Mitchell’s Comet”.  The year after she became the first women elected at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Afterwards she became professor of astronomy at Vassar College in 1865 and stayed there until she retired in 1888.

Maria Mitchell was born on August 1, 1818, in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Mitchell and Lydia Coleman Mitchell and had nine brothers and sisters. The Mitchells belonged to the Quakers community. The Quakers community was unusual for its time in regard to intellectual equality between the sexes. Even when it was a male dominant society, her parents like other Quakers, valued education and believed in giving her the same quality of education that boys received. Her initial interest in astronomy was stimulated by her father at the sheer age of twelve, who educated her at his school on Howard Street and let her assist in his work of rating chronometers for the Nantucket whaling fleet and determining the longitude of Nantucket during the 1831 eclipse independently using his telescope. In another half year she helped her father in calculation the exact moment of annular eclipse. After the closure of her father’s school she went to a school for young ladies which belonged to the Unitarian minister Cyrus Peirce and later also worked as his teaching...
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