Today, Google is honoring Maria Mitchell with a really cool Doodle that shows the first American professional female astronomer using a telescope to look to the sky – presumably in hunt for “Miss Mitchell’s Comet,” which she would discover in 1847.
Mitchell was born in 1818 in Nantucket, Massachusetts and raised in the Quaker faith. She most likely benefitted from the Quaker’s belief in intellectual equality – getting the same type of education that her brothers received. Mitchell started pursuing astronomy at an early age. By age 12, Mitchell had already helped her father to calculate an annular eclipse. In 1836, Mitchell took a job as the first librarian of the Nantucket Atheneum, and she ended up working there for 18 years.
And in 1847, she made a big discovery. Using a telescope, she spotted a coment that would later be named “Miss Mitchell’s Comet.” For this discovery, she was awarded a gold medal by the King of Denmark.
The Maria Mitchell Association describes the rest of her life, which focused on being an educator:
After achieving her fame, Maria was widely sought after and went on to achieve many great things. She resigned her post at the Atheneum in 1856 to travel throughout the US and Europe. In 1865, she became Professor of Astronomy at the newly-founded Vassar College.
Maria was an inspiration to her students. It was Vassar College that Maria felt was truly her home. She believed in learning by doing, and in the capacity of women to achieve what their male counterparts could. “Miss Mitchell” was beloved by her students whom she taught until her retirement in 1888, due to failing health. She died in 1889, and was buried next to her parents in Nantucket’s Prospect Hill Cemetery.
Today’s Google Doodle celebrates what would be her 195th birthday.