Google Doodle Honors Maria Mitchell, First Professional Woman Astronomer in the U.S.

August 1, 2013 marks what would have been the American scientist's 195th birthday

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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.

MORE: Google Doodle Celebrates Rosalind Franklin

PHOTOS: The Month in Space


To fangednekoyasha

Point taken and appreciated. I saw that it said updated at 2:24 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2013, but thought the update might mean showing more people had posted since I last looked.
What you're saying of course makes much more sense. I apologize to the board. I will pay closer attention.
Thanks. aka teresahp2. (I'd signed in yesterday through google  instead of Time.)

teresahp2 1 Like

I don't understand everyone's problem with Maria Mitchell, or the Journalist.

For those not paying attention to the title here, it says she was the first woman in the US. Not the world, but the United States.

While I can certainly appreciate Miss Hershel's achievements, she was born in Germany. And led a very hard life from what I understand.

Still, it is Maria that is being honored here. So what if her comet never comes back around. Miss Mitchell's contribution to astronomy as well as political achievements are just as note worthy and is very much worth honoring. Why has only one person recognized her for who she was here?

As far as Henry Ford goes, everyone knows what he did. Nothing new.

Until today I had never heard of Maria Mitchell. I learned something new today that i I didn't know.

If I am wrong, please tell me.


@teresahp2 For those not paying attention, the article states "Updated at 2:24 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2013".  It was CORRECTED after we pointed out glaring errors in the article.  Do try to keep up.


Too bad they couldn't honor Henry Ford's 150th on July 30.


To be fair at least this young lady had the courage to make the suggestion and for that I salute her. She did just graduate college last year but to be an honors graduate in journalism and have this many errors, is bad. Well, I hope this earlier mistake allows her to learn to better research in the future.

gabbyc.4477 1 Like

Wow! I love to read the new google pages because i'm still in school. That means that in a subject, we might learn about it......and i'll be ahead of the game! This is good advice. Like if your still young like me! ( 11 years old ) ...........Love history........... <3

MeanKittyClaws 1 Like

@gabbyc.4477Also check out Hypathia, Mary Anning, Henrietta Leavitt, Lady Ada Lovelace, Rosalind Franklin, Rachel Carson to name but a few more women in science your probably not being taught about, but they sure existed.   


What an injustice to Caroline Hershel who labored under trying conditions to escape the gravitational pull of her more famous brother...escape she did. A very accomplished astronomer in her own right...oh yeah, she was not an American.

fangednekoyasha 1 Like

Maria Mitchell was NOT the first professional woman astronomer. Ever heard of Caroline Herschel?

katiecovey 2 Like

Maria (Mar-EYE-a) Mitchell became a Unitarian in her adolescence, attributing to her love of science and use of reason as well as her support of women's education. There is a great picture book for children called "Maria's Comet" by D. Hopkinson. I use her story as part of teaching Unitarian Universalism to children as a curricula writer. I'm so glad to see her featured! 


Based on a quick search, Comet Mitchell aka C/1847 T1 is a non-periodic comet. This means the comet may or may not return and that its period is unknown but at least 200 years and possibly much longer. If it ever does return it may not be for thousands of years or longer, maybe after humankind is gone.


Not visible from the domain or else I missed it .. strange.