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Historical Biography, 15 min. (1993)



Maria Mitchell was America's first woman astronomer. She lived from 1818 until 1889. Her interest in astronomy began when she was twelve years old and continued for the rest of her life. Maria Mitchell became internationally famous when she discovered a comet in 1847 when she was twenty-nine years old. She went on to become America's first woman professor of astronomy, teaching at Vassar College when it opened in 1865 until she retired in 1888.

Study Guide available: Grades 4 – Adult

Distribution
New Dimensions Media
Funding
1818  
August 1, Maria Mitchell born in Mitchell House on Vestal Street, Nantucket.
1831  
Maria assists her father as they observe a solar eclipse on Nantucket. 12 years old.
1836  
Becomes first librarian at the Nantucket Athenaeum. Holds position for twenty years; teaches herself two foreign languages and advanced mathematics.
1847  
Discovers a comet and receives gold medal from King of Denmark. First American and first woman given this honor. 29 years old.
1848   Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the first woman admitted.
1849  
Hired by U.S. Nautical Almanac to calculate transit of Venus. Continues for 19 years.
1865  
Becomes American's first female Professor of Astronomy when Vassar College opens. Retires in 1888.
1875  
President of the American Association for the Advancement of Women for two years.
1889  
Dies in Lynn, Massachusetts, where her youngest sister lives. 71 years old.
1902  
Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association founded by family members and students.