Maria Mitchell: The Soul of an Astronomer


In the mid-1800s, a turbulent time when women were often thought to be unworthy of higher education, Maria Mitchell rose above the prejudices of the day to become America's first professional woman astronomer. This exciting biography tells the story of Maria Mitchell's life, her amazing achievements, and her faith that saw God's handiwork in the heavens.

A biography of the first female science professor at Vassar College and the ...

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In the mid-1800s, a turbulent time when women were often thought to be unworthy of higher education, Maria Mitchell rose above the prejudices of the day to become America's first professional woman astronomer. This exciting biography tells the story of Maria Mitchell's life, her amazing achievements, and her faith that saw God's handiwork in the heavens.

A biography of the first female science professor at Vassar College and the first American woman astronomer.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
It is fascinating to read the life story of a woman born in the mid 19th century who overcame incredible odds. Maria Mitchell became the first professional female astronomer in the United States. It was not a total fluke that Maria became an astronomer. Maria had the good fortune to be born of rather liberal Quaker parents in Nantucket during its heyday. Her father had a great interest in astronomy. He dedicated much of his life to sharing his knowledge and love of astronomy with many people, including his own children. The whaling industry was an important part of the economy in Nantucket. One of the ways Maria's father supported his family was to adjust the chronometers that sailors used to guide their ships. By the time she was a young teenager Maria could make these adjustments herself. She went on to become a world famous astronomer at a time when women were considered too weak for any level of sophisticated intellectual activity. She had a very distinguished career as a professor at Vassar College. In addition, she was dedicated to advancing the rights of women as well as training future astronomers. She is also remembered for her discovery of a comet for which she received world recognition and a gold medal in 1847. 2004 (orig. 1995), Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Ages 8 up.
—Kristin Harris
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9With a smoothly flowing and lively style, this biography introduces readers to the 19th-century astronomer. Well-chosen, primary-source quotations and quality black-and-white photos add authenticity to the text, and contribute greatly to the author's objective and comprehensive description of Mitchell's accomplishments. This is not a straightforward chronological biography. The first chapter sets the stage, describing Mitchell's native Nantucket; comments about her as a adult; and fills in facts about her childhood. Gormley then goes on to describe her subject's later life and career. A 16-page centerfold features black-and-white photos of Mitchell, her friends, family, and colleagues. Students who are researching women scientists, 19th-century astronomers, or the education and enlightenment of women will find this biography helpful.Phyllis Graves, Creekwood Middle School, Kingwood, TX
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802852649
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Pages: 137
  • Sales rank: 1,411,822
  • Age range: 5 - 7 Years
  • Lexile: 1150L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction ix
1. A Devout Astronomer 1
2. A Quaker Family 13
3. A Temple of Knowledge 23
4. No Longer a Friend 35
5. Comet Mitchell 43
6. The Hardest Year 53
7. The World Beyond Nantucket 63
8. A Magnificent Enterprise 75
9. Women Studying Together 85
10. More Than Astronomy 97
11. The Curtain That Hides the Infinite 113
My Sources for This Book 125
Suggestions for Further Reading 127
Acknowledgments 129
Image Credits 130
Index 132
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    "We are women studying together" (Maria Mitchell, 1876)

    When she was 29 she discovered Comet 1847 VI (Comet MItchell). She was America's first professional female astronomer. There is a crater on the moon that bears her name. She was the first professor of astronomy and mathematics at newly formed Vassar Female College in Poughkeepsie, New York. "In 1848, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was the first woman to be so honored, and it would be almost a century before another woman was recognized by the Academy" (Ch. 5). *** Who was this prodigy? Why had I not heard of her before a recent tourist visit to Nantucket Island, Massachusetts? *** "In 1994, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York" (Ch. 11). *** ? Who was this formidable American scientific pioneer, distant cousin of Benjamin Franklin? *** She was Maria (pronounced mah-RYE-ah) Mitchell (1818 - 1869). She was born into a tightly knit Quaker community that dominated the economic and social life of Nantucket, at the time the whaling capital of the world. Her father taught her at a very young age mathematics-based astronomy and also how to repair ships' clocks to calculate longitude accurately. "For a chronometer only one second off would cause a ship to be a quarter mile off course" (Ch. 1). *** In time her religious thinking moved her away from Quaker to Unitarian theology. "The furthest Maria could go ... was to say to herself: 'There is a God and He is good ... I try to increase my trust in this, my only article of creed'" (Ch. 4). *** She was a pioneering champion of women's rights, a national leader, along with Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Julia Ward Howe. They all knew and worked with Maria Mitchell. *** She was also an early champion of schools and colleges for girls and women. Of hard schools teaching hard thinking. In 1864 a Boston Magazine thundered against the very idea of the proposed Vassar College. We don't crush our daughter by making her carry bricks up and down ladders all day. Similarly, we should not "impose on her brain the mental burden of these studies" (Ch. 9) To Miss Mitchell this was nonsense. Nor would she talk down to her women students. Astronomy is not star-gazing. "That knowledge which is popular is not scientific." Serious Americans must study mathematics deeply. And her girls did, many following her into pioneering scientific or medical work at Harvard or Johns Hopkins. Maria Mitchell asked nothing of her girls that she did not demand of herself: "We are women studying together" (Ch. 9) *** MARIA MITCHELL: THE SOUL OF AN ASTRONOMER is not an original work of scholarship. It draws on previous biographies of Professor Mitchell and on published recollections of her students at Vassar. Biographer Beatrice Gormley includes 16 pages of black and white photos and paintings. Also a topical Index and a small Bibliography. I am not sure how many of the 9 - 12 years olds for whom the book is written will choose to read more deeply into either astronomy or the life and times of the amazing Maria Mitchell. But for adults this book is worth reading. If you elect to read even more, then using materials offered by Beatrice Gormley can keep you busy for at least another three or four months. -OOO-

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