Updated at 2:24 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2013
Today’s Google Doodle honors Maria Mitchell (Aug. 1, 1818—Jun. 28, 1889), the first professional woman astronomer in the U.S. and the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Born to a Quaker family on Nantucket, she grew up stargazing with her father’s telescope. On October 1, 1847, while working as a librarian at the Nantucket Atheneum, she discovered a new comet, which became known as “Miss Mitchell’s Comet.” King Frederick VI of Denmark sent her a medal in honor of her discovery.
In 1865, she became the first astronomy professor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she ran the school’s observatory and woke students up in the middle of the night to study Saturn and Jupiter. A staunch proponent of the anti-slavery movement during the Civil War, she also used the observatory to host salons that discussed current events in politics and feminism and to host “dome parties” where everyone would sit around and write poetry on scraps of paper. “We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry,” she once said, according to the National Women’s History Museum.
In 1873, she helped establish the Association for the Advancement of Women and ran it for a few years afterwards. There’s even a crater on the Moon named after her, “Mitchell’s Crater.”
Other prominent women who have been honored with Google Doodles this year include biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, jazz musician Ella Fitzgerald, and the first African singer to win a Grammy, Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba.
PHOTOS: The Month in Space