Woman of the Century/Maria Mitchell
MITCHELL, Miss Maria, astronomer, born in Nantucket, Mass., 1st August, 1818, and died in Lynn, Mass., in 1889. She was the daughter of William Mitchell, the well-known astronomer, from whom she inherited her scientific tastes. In childhood she showed remarkable talent for mathematics and astronomy, and at an early age assisted her father in his investigations, while studying with him. She studied afterward with Prof. Charles Pierce and assisted him in the summer school in Nantucket. For many years she was librarian of the Nantucket Athenamm. She was a regular student of astronomy and made many discoveries of comets and fine studies of nebula;. On 1st October, 1847, she discovered a small comet, and on that occasion she received a gold medal from the King of Denmark and a copper medal from the Republic of San Marino, Italy. When the "American Nautical Almanac" was established, she became a leading contributor to its pages, and her work on that periodical was continued until after she was chosen astronomer in Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N. Y. In 1858 she visited the chief observatories in Europe. and while abroad she formed the acquaintance of Sir John Herschel. Sir George B. Airy, Le Verrier and Humboldt. Returning to the United States, she received a superb gift, a large telescope, from the women of the country, headed by Miss Elizabeth Peabody, of Boston, Mass. In 1865 she begun her work as professor of astronomy in Vassar College, which she continued until 1888, when failing health compelled her to resign. The trustees were not willing to accept her resignation, but gave her a leave of absence. Besides her work as a teacher, she made a specialty of the study of sun-spots and of the satellites of Saturn and Jupiter. She received the degree of LL.D. from Hanover College in 1852 and from Columbia College in 1887. She belonged to numerous scientific societies. She became a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1850, and was made a fellow in 1874. She was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was prominent in the councils of the Association for the Advancement of Women, serving as president of that society in the convention in Syracuse, N. Y., in 1875. and in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1876. She wrote much, but her published works were restricted to scientific papers.