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Ten fun facts about Maria Mitchell


1. First American Woman to Discover a Comet

In 1847, Maria Mitchell made a remarkable discovery - a comet that would later be named after her. For her achievement, she was awarded a gold medal from King Frederick VII of Denmark, making her the first American woman to receive such an honor. The Maria Mitchell Comet, as it is now known, is still visible in the night sky today, a lasting reminder of her incredible accomplishment.

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2. First Woman in US National Women's Hall of Fame

The late Maria Mitchell was a pioneering astronomer who made history when she became the first woman to be inducted into the United States National Women's Hall of Fame. Her remarkable achievements in the field of astronomy, including the discovery of a comet in 1847, earned her a place in the Hall of Fame, where she is remembered as a trailblazer for women in science. Her legacy continues to inspire generations of female scientists to this day.

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3. The Woman Who Discovered a Comet

The renowned astronomer Maria Mitchell was a pioneer in the field of astronomy, and her legacy lives on in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History, where her telescope is proudly displayed. This telescope, which she used to discover a comet in 1847, is a reminder of her groundbreaking work and her commitment to advancing the field of astronomy.

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4. From Student to Teacher's Assistant in Dad's School.

Maria Mitchell's father was an ambitious man who opened his own school, and Maria was fortunate enough to be both a student and a teacher's assistant in it. She was able to learn from her father's teachings and gain valuable experience in the classroom, which would later prove to be invaluable in her career as an astronomer.

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5. A Woman Who Led the Way

Born in the independent and progressive town of Nantucket, Maria Mitchell was raised in an environment that encouraged and celebrated female autonomy. With their husbands often away at sea, women were left to manage their own affairs, and this culture of self-sufficiency and equality provided a strong foundation for Mitchell's own pioneering spirit.

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6. Pioneer Teacher Who Openly Supported Children of Color

In 1835, Maria Mitchell made a bold move by opening her own school and allowing children of color to attend, despite the fact that it was not a popular decision at the time. This progressive move was ahead of its time and showed her commitment to providing educational opportunities to all children, regardless of their race.

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7. Librarian Who Discovered a New Planet

For 20 years, beginning in 1836, Maria Mitchell worked as a librarian at the Nantucket Atheneum, a library located on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. During her time there, she was responsible for cataloging and organizing the library's collection of books, as well as helping patrons find the materials they needed. She also taught classes on astronomy and mathematics, and was a mentor to many of the library's younger patrons. Her work at the Nantucket Atheneum was instrumental in her later success as an astronomer and educator.

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8. First American Woman to Discover a Comet

When Maria Mitchell discovered a comet on October 1, 1847, she was credited with the discovery. However, two days later, Francesco de Vico attempted to take credit for the comet, claiming it as his own. Despite his efforts, Maria Mitchell was recognized for her discovery and became the first American woman to be credited with the discovery of a comet.

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9. Professor Who Demanded Equal Pay Was a Bold Move

Maria Mitchell, a pioneering astronomer, was a professor of astronomy at Vassar College for some time. During her tenure, she noticed that her male colleagues were making more money than she was, and so she demanded a raise. This was a bold move for a woman in the 19th century, and it was a testament to her determination to fight for equal pay. Her efforts were successful, and she was able to secure a salary that was commensurate with her male colleagues.

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10. First Woman Elected to Academy of Philosophy

Maria Mitchell was a pioneering astronomer and educator who made history by becoming the first woman to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. She was one of three women to be elected to the American Philosophical Society, a prestigious organization that promotes the advancement of science and philosophy. Her election to these organizations was a major milestone in the fight for gender equality and recognition of women's achievements in the sciences.

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