Maria Mitchell for Students

Legacy and the Maria Mitchell Association

”We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic,
but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.” Maria Mitchell

The Mitchell House Today

A modern photograph of the Historic Mitchell House, where Maria spent the first eighteen years of her life. (Collection of Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association)


founders of the Maria Mitchell Association, Maria’s friends, family, and former pupils, formed the organization in 1902 to commemorate Maria’s life and interest in astronomy and the natural sciences. When Maria’s aunt, Mary Mitchell, who had lived in the house at 1 Vestal Street, died in that same year, the Association bought the house at 1 Vestal Street and filled it with displays related not only to Maria’s life, but also to her passions. It was not at first arranged as the house would have been during Maria’s lifetime. Instead, the front parlor was a reading room, and the family’s sitting room was hung with photographs of the Mitchells and also held Maria’s scientific books and instruments. What had been the downstairs bedroom and birthroom was converted into a room for displaying plant, animal, and geological specimens.

Nantucket Maria Mitchell Observatory, ca. 1930

Nantucket Maria Mitchell Observatory, ca. 1930

In 1908, the Maria Mitchell Association completed an observatory that still stands next door to Maria’s birthplace where public lectures in astronomy are offered. It houses the 5-inch Alvan Clark telescope that was given as a gift to Maria by the Women of America, headed by Elizabeth Peabody, in 1859. By the 1920s, the Association also offered classes in natural science for adults and children, continuing Maria’s legacy of “learning by doing.”



Today, the Maria Mitchell birthplace is dedicated solely to interpreting the life of Maria Mitchell and her family, and to introducing each new generation to the incredible history of this pioneering woman scientist. The Maria Mitchell Association’s Vestal Street campus also includes Hinchman House, which now houses the natural science museum, and a science library open for research by appointment. The Loines Observatory on Milk Street, with domes built in 1968 and 1998, features a 24-inch research telescope and an 8-inch Clark telescope, the later of which is used to show celestial objects to the public at Open Nights. In 1988, the present Aquarium building on Washington Street, originally a ticket office for the Nantucket Railroad, opened to the public. The Maria Mitchell Association is dedicated not only to preserving Maria’s personal legacy, but also to educating all its visitors about the flora and fauna of Nantucket Island and the wonders of the skies which Maria dedicated so much of her life to observing. Maria Mitchell Association staff and visitors alike bring Maria’s words to life:

“We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing.”

Learn more about today’s Maria Mitchell Association.

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