Maria Mitchell for Students

America’s First Woman Astronomer

“The world of learning is so broad, and the human soul is so limited in power! We reach forth and strain every nerve, but we seize only a bit of the curtain that hides the infinite from us.”  Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

Maria Mitchell was one of the most famous figures in Nantucket history, and was a force behind women’s rights and women’s education of the nineteenth century. It would be impossible to describe her contributions in just a few short sentences: Like many island women, she fulfilled many roles during her lifetime, both on Nantucket and “off-island.” However, she is most known as the first professional American woman astronomer, a title she received when she discovered a telescopic comet from the roof of the Pacific National Bank on Main Street. Although she would work tirelessly as an astronomer and teacher for the rest of her life, Maria Mitchell was also a librarian, a student of languages, a world traveler, and a supporter of universal rights for women. Read on to learn more about the incredible life and legacy of the much beloved “Miss Mitchell.”

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