timeline

born 1818

Maria Mitchell wanted to be an astronomer from the time her father taught her to use a telescope at age 12. Her big break came 16 years later in 1847, when she discovered a new comet {which now bears her name} while scanning the skies one fateful October night. 

Maria continued to study the cosmos while working as a librarian in her native Nantucket. Making a career out of her passion, she became the US's first female pro astronomer + first professor hired by Vassar College in 1865. There, the lauded scientist + civil rights activist inspired scores of female students to follow her lead. An advocate for original research, Maria never failed to ask ~ "Did you learn it from a book or did you observe it yourself?"

bio bits

her quotes

all quotes by Maria Mitchell (19)

"I am just learning to notice the different colors of the stars, and already beginning to have a new enjoyment."

Life, Letters and Journals | december 1852

"People have to learn sometimes not only how much the heart, but how much the head, can bear."

Life, Letters and Journals | october 1853

"The world of learning is so broad, and the human soul is so limited in power! We reach forth and strain every nerve, but we seize only a bit of the curtain that hides the infinite from us."

Life, Letters and Journals | october 1854

"Don't examine a black spot upon your pillow-case; go to sleep at once, and keep asleep if you can."

Life, Letters and Journals | may 1857

"The ocean must be unrepresentable to those who have not looked upon it."

Life, Letters and Journals | may 1857

"It is singular what a quiet motive-power science is, the breath of a nation's progress."

Life, Letters and Journals | 1858

"It seems to be difficult for any one to take in the idea that two truths cannot conflict."

Life, Letters and Journals | march 1858

"The phrase 'popular science' has in itself a touch of absurdity. That knowledge which is popular is not scientific."

Life, Letters and Journals | 1866

"When we are chafed and fretted by small cares, a look at the stars will show us the littleness of our own interests."

Life, Letters and Journals | 1866

"We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry."

Life, Letters and Journals | 1871

"Living more nearly to Nature is living farther from the world and from its follies, but nearer to the world's people."

Life, Letters and Journals | 1871

"There will come with the greater love of science greater love to one another."

Life, Letters and Journals | 1871

"Born a woman—born with the average brain of humanity—born with more than the average heart—if you are mortal, what higher destiny could you have?"

Life, Letters and Journals | 1874

"No woman should say, 'I am but a woman!' But a woman! What more can you ask to be?"

Life, Letters and Journals | 1874

"For women there are, undoubtedly, great difficulties in the path, but so much the more to overcome."

Life, Letters and Journals | 1874

"Besides learning to see, there is another art to be learned—not to see what is not."

Life, Letters, and Journals | july 1878

"We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing."

Life, Letters and Journals | july 1878

"The more we see, the more we are capable of seeing."

Life, Letters and Journals | july 1878

"Why turn your eyes to your shadow, when, by looking upward, you see your rainbow in the same direction?"

Life, Letters and Journals | february 1887
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curated with care by Kathleen Murray {may 2015}