Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell ( born August 1, 1818 in Nantucket, Massachusetts, † June 28, 1889 in Lynn, Massachusetts) was an American astronomer and pioneer of women's rights.


The father of Maria Mitchell, William Mitchell, was an amateur astronomer and teacher. He encouraged his scientific talented daughter and gave her even mathematics and astronomy lessons. So she took in the early 19th century, when so-called " young ladies " were only to domestic work and the fine arts, a special role.

1847 discovered from the observatory of her father from the Mitchell comet later named after her and a year later, in 1848, she was accepted as the first woman in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1850 the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Until she was in 1865, in turn, appointed the first woman, as Professor of Astronomy at the prestigious Vassar College, passed for another 20 years. In the meantime, she worked as a librarian, continued his education with the help of the entrusted books and studied astronomy with her father, with whom she also worked together. 1869 was - also the first woman - appointed to the American Philosophical Society. Even as a mathematician Mitchell was productive: You worked on the Fermat conjecture and published a study on the Sophie Germain primes.

1875, dedicated Mitchell was elected president of that she founded in 1873 the American Association for the Advancement of Women (AAW ).

By 1888 Mitchell was a professor at Vassar College. In addition, she directed the Scientific Council of AAW until shortly before her death.

Life's work

In addition to its astronomical discoveries, Maria Mitchell throughout his life used for more women in the sciences. She criticized the mediocrity of the majority of their male counterparts and always stressed again that science is urgently in need of the skills and knowledge of women: "We Especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry. "

Mitchell was one of the most famous scientists (men and women) in the United States of the 19th century.

Mitchell was an excellent professor who stood up for their students and supported them to be really good scientists, even though they "only" women. She put great emphasis on practical experience and made will always be happy about pure theorist funny, who had all their knowledge from books. According to her was someone who had not even certain processes observed or empirically proven, never really rely on his knowledge. " Did you learn from a book or did did you observe it yourself? " Was her most famous question with which she entered into the annals of American science. You asked this question not only their students, but also their fellow astronomers and then get in this more than unpopular.


For the discovery of the Mitchell comet she was honored by the King of Denmark with a medal.

After her death, was founded in honor of Maria Mitchell Maria Mitchell Astronomical Society. In 1905 she was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.

In ehrvollem memory of 1937 in Heidelberg discovered asteroid ( 1455 ) Mitchella was named after her.

Similarly, the 30 km wide crater on the moon Mitchell was named after her.