Vassar College, 124 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
Prospect Hill Cemetery, Hummock Pond Rd, Nantucket, MA 02554
Maria Mitchell (August 1, 1818 – June 28, 1889) was an American astronomer, who in 1847 by using a telescope, discovered a comet, which as a result became known as "Miss Mitchell's Comet." She won a gold medal prize for her discovery, which was presented to her by King Frederick VI of Denmark. On the medal was inscribed "Non Frustra Signorum Obitus Speculamur et Ortus"" in Latin (taken from Georgics by Virgil (Book I, line 257) (English: "Not in vain do we watch the setting and rising [of the stars]"). Mitchell was the first American woman to work as a professional astronomer.
IIn 1843, she left the Quaker faith and followed Unitarian principles. In protest against slavery, she stopped wearing clothes made of southern cotton. She was friends with various suffragists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Women in 1873.
Mitchell became a celebrity following her discovery and awards, with hundreds of newspaper articles written about her in the subsequent decade. At her home in Nantucket, she entertained prominent academics of the time such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth.
Mitchell never married, but remained close to her immediate family throughout her life. After she retired from Vassar College in 1888, she lived in Lynn, Massachusetts, with her sister Kate and her family. Very few of her personal documents remain from before 1846. The Mitchell family believes she witnessed personal papers of fellow Nantucketers blown through the street by the Great Fire of 1846, and because fear of another fire persisted, she burned her own documents to keep them private.
Mitchell died of brain disease on June 28, 1889, at the age of 70, in Lynn, Massachusetts. She was buried in Lot 411, in Prospect Hill Cemetery, Nantucket.
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE