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This Day in Boston History
October 1st, 1847
Maria Mitchell Looks to the Sky
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.