Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria in her chair

Dec. 8,1853.  Last night we had the first meeting of the class of elocution.  It was very pleasant, but my deficiency of ear was never more apparent to myself . . .I practised {sic.} after I came home, with the family as audience.  H. says my ear is competent only to vulgar hearing, and I cannot appreciate nice distinctions . . . . Coloring I might have been good in, for I do think my eyes are better than those of any one I know.

Maria Mitchell did seem to have a problem with her ears.  When in Europe, she attended the opera as everyone who travelled throughout Europe would do – it was not just part of the visit but also of the education that resulted from a European trip.  The issue was that she was tone deaf and try as she might, she could never appreciate or enjoy the opera.  It did not stop her from trying though!  And I can see where the process of elocution might be difficult as well and the comments that “H.” (her youngest brother, Henry) makes to her are somewhat understandable – she doesn’t hear the difference.

Her feelings about color – and having better eyes – VERY true!  Not just because she was an astronomer or natural scientist – she was a natural observer and incredibly observant.  You’d be surprise at what people do NOT notice – but not Maria!  Which of course made her an even better scientist!

JNLF