October 1, 1847

Maria Mitchell Discovers Comet


On this day in 1847, 29-year-old Maria Mitchell stood on the roof of her parent's Nantucket home, focusing her telescope on what she believed to be a faraway star. Suddenly she realized that the blurry light was not a star at all, but a comet. The first woman to record a "telescopic" comet sighting, she immediately captured the imagination of America and of the world. In 1865 she was appointed the first professor, male or female, at the newly founded Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She would live, study, and teach there for the next 23 years. Aware of her status as a pioneer woman scientist, Maria Mitchell became an active supporter of the woman's rights movement. She continued her astronomical research until her death in 1889.

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