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MARIA MITCHELL (1818—1889)

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Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 618 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MARIA MITCHELL (1818—1889), American astronomer, was born of Quaker ancestry on the island of Nantucket on the 1st of August 1818. Her father, William Mitchell (1791—1869), was a school teacher and self-taught astronomer, who rated chronometers for Nantucket whalers, was an overseer of Harvard University (1857—1865), and for a time was employed by the United States Coast Survey. As early as 1831 (during the annular eclipse of the sun) she had been her father's assistant in his observations. On the 1st of October 1847 she discovered a telescopic comet (seen by De Vico Oct. 3, by W. R. Dawes Oct. 7, by Madame Rumker Oct. 11), and for this discovery she received a gold medal from the King of Denmark, and was elected (1848) to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and (185o) to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1861 she removed from Nantucket to Lynn, where she used a large equatorial telescope presented to her by the women of America; and there she lived until 1865, when she became professor of astronomy and director of the observatory at Vassar College; in 1888 she became professor emeritus. In 1874 she began making photographs of the sun, and for years she made a special study of Jupiter and Saturn. She died at Lynn on the 28th of June 1889. In 1908 an observatory was established in her honour at Nantucket. See Phebe Mitchell Kendall, Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters and Journals (Boston, 1896); In Memoriam (Poughkeepsie, 1889), by her pupil and successor at Vassar, Mary W. Whitney; and a sketch by her brother, Henry Mitchell (1830-1902), himself a well-known hydrographer, in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, vol. xxv. (1889-189o), pp. 331-343.
End of Article: MARIA MITCHELL (1818—1889)
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