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This Day in Boston History

October 1st, 1847

Maria Mitchell Looks to the Sky

1 redcoat for each 5 bostonians.
On this day, a twenty-nine year old school teacher and life-long amateur astronomer, Maria Mitchell, looked into the night sky of her native Nantucket. It was on this night she charted a comet which was only visible by telescope, an achievement which would change her life.

This discovery earned her international renown and a gold medal from the King of Denmark. Mitchell became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and she was recruited by Vassar to become the first woman Professor of Astronomy.

Her interest in astronomy had been inspired by her father who built and adjusted sextants and was himself an amateur astronomer. He had encouraged her to study advanced mathematics which opened opportunities for study unavailable to most women of that time.

In turn she inspired thousands of astronomers and women interested in science.


England's Prime Minister never expected this tea tax to cause an outcry, let alone revolution. In 1767, England reduced its property taxes at home. To balance the national budget they needed to find a mechanism for the American colonies to pay for the expense of stationing officials in them. The officials would generate their own revenue by collecting taxes on all imported goods, and once paid affixing stamps on them. This Stamp Tax generated more in the way of protests and smuggling than added revenue.

Religion. Politics. Rebellion. Boston’s pedigree was forged back in England in the midst of religious dissension, where Puritans and Pilgrims sought religious reform, and Cavaliers and Roundheads vied for political power. The question isn't where did Boston get its name – but how.

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