Americas first woman astronomer was born in 1818 on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. Patiently observing the skies with her father as early as age twelve, Maria eventually discovers a telescopic comet. For this 1847 feat, she is awarded a Gold MedalMoreAmericas first woman astronomer was born in 1818 on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. Patiently observing the skies with her father as early as age twelve, Maria eventually discovers a telescopic comet. For this 1847 feat, she is awarded a Gold Medal by the King of Denmark.
Other honors and world fame follow. When Vassar College opens in 1865, Maria is there as its first Professor of Astronomy. She remains to serve under three Vassar presidents. A passionate seeker of truth and wisdom, Maria Mitchells keen views are revealed in her journals. Her growth as an advocate for womens rights is dramatically portrayed. At eighteen she is hired as the first librarian for the Nantucket Atheneum, where she educates herself studying the books she orders.
Twenty years later, we see her, now internationally renowned, a welcome guest in salons of the worlds leading scientists and literary figures. Marias tales of daring travel by bumpy stagecoach, Russian droskys, Mississippi River boats and Atlantic side-wheelers are here, as are her perceptive accounts of the celebrities of her day. Journeying westward alone, escorting a Chicago debutante on her Grand Tour, taking a teenage nephew to Russia (complete with daunting, sometimes comical adventures) all come to life.
She organizes Vassar students to observe meteors and undertake eclipse expeditions. In her journals we see Maria Mitchell grow under the tutelage of her father in a warm and active family. Henry Albers, serving as a modern scribe, searched the original sources to bring her words to us, showing the growth of backbone, brain and understanding of this wise and witty woman.
Marias ever enlarging circle of friends and fellow workers included Julia Ward Howe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the Concord School with Emerson, Whittier, Alcott and Peabody. Presidents of Harvard and Brown were her allies, as were the heads of several scientific organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Nautical Almanac.
Maria Mitchell: A Life in Journals and Letters movingly evokes an era of progress for learning and for women. Henry Albers, benefiting from his thirty-two years as astronomy professor at Vassar College, has woven together the significant writings of his earliest predecessor, Maria Mitchell, to deliver to us the extraordinary story of the devoted observer of the sky as she matured into a celebrated nineteenth century astronomer, pioneering educator, and dedicated womens advocate.
Born in Andover, Massachusetts, Professor Albers graduated from Harvard College in 1950 and earned advanced degrees from the University of Minnesota and Case Institute. His career has been as a teacher at Vassar College, where he occupied the Alumnae Maria Mitchell Chair, and as an observational astronomer, primarily at the Interamerican Observatory in Chile. He has traveled extensively as an astronomical researcher and lecturer.