No, no, no, I got here first, that’s my seat! Get out now!! Maria Mitchell[i]
(I know that sounds a lot like Margaret Mitchell but she is not Margaret, trust me) was born on the 1st in 1818. You know how some girls always have their heads in the clouds? Well, of course she became an astronomer. In 1847, she discovered what was then referred to as a telescopic comet, one that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye because comets had to be properly dressed in the 19th century. King Frederick VI of Denmark[ii]
was offering a gold medal to everyone who found one of those, though for a king he was kind of cheap – only the first discoverer of a particular comet would get a medal. A couple of days after she found it, so did Francesco de Vico. They both applied to the king for the prize, but de Vico got his papers in a couple of days before Maria did. While not quite the fight that Harrison had to endure to get his chronometer recognized, after of bit of dancing around, the prize was handed to Maria. Which was kind of neat because at the time the only other woman credited with discovering a comet was Caroline Herschel[iii]
. The comet she found was named Miss Mitchell’s Comet. The modern designation is C/1847 T1, which really lacks the charm of Miss Mitchell’s Comet, but I was not consulted, so don’t blame me.[i]
Marie’s parents, William and Lydia Coleman Mitchell, were Quakers and they insisted that she get the same quality education that her brothers and other boys in their Nantucket, Massachusetts community received.[ii]
I find it interesting that Frederick was a schizophrenic.[iii]
Astronomer Sir William Herschel was Caroline’s brother.