Correspondence relative to the award of the King of Denmark's Comet Medal to Miss Maria Mitchell, of Nantucket, for the discovery of a telescopic comet, on the 1st October 1847. [Not published.]
by MITCHELL, Maria (1818-1889); EVERETT, Edward (ed.).
Cambridge:: Metcalf and Co., 1849., 1849. 8vo. 24 pp. Original brown printed wrappers; corner chipped. INSCRIBED AND SIGNED BY THE PRESIDENT OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY, and the editor of this paper, Edward Everett, to: "Amos Lawrence Esq., with the kind regards of Edward Everett." Very good. First printing. This pamphlet, printed with the statement "NOT PUBLISHED" on the cover, records the correspondence for which Maria Mitchell is famous, the discovery of a new comet in1847 [Comet 1847 VI; now called C/1847 T1, and her course toward propelling her forward in the esteem of the public and the astronomical community, for her to become the first female professional astronomer in the United States. That comet she found is familiarly called "Miss Mitchell's Comet". / Referring to this pamphlet: "King Frederick VI of Denmark had established gold medal prizes to each discoverer of a "telescopic comet" (too faint to be seen with the naked eye). The prize was to be awarded to the "first discoverer" of each such comet (note that comets are often independently discovered by more than one person). Maria Mitchell won one of these prizes, and this gave her worldwide fame, since the only previous women to discover a comet were the astronomers Caroline Herschel and Maria Margarethe Kirch. Her discovery and recognition by the Danish government legitimized American astronomy in Europe, whose astronomers previously looked down on American astronomers." [Wikip.] / MARIA MITCHELL ASSOCIATION, NANTUCKET, MA: Maria Mitchell . . . was an astronomer, librarian, naturalist, and above all, educator. She discovered a comet through a telescope, for which she was awarded a gold medal by the King of Denmark. She was then thrust into the international spotlight and became America's first professional female astronomer. / Born to Quaker parents William and Lydia Mitchell on Nantucket on August 1, 1818, Mitchell was an avid learner. The Quaker tradition taught that both boys and girls should be educated and Maria received an education at local schools and from her father's tutoring. Her father was a great influence on her life; Maria developed her love of astronomy from his instruction on surveying and navigation. At age 12, Maria helped her father calculate the position of their home by observing a solar eclipse. By 14, sailors trusted her to do vital navigational computations for their long whaling journeys. Maria pursued her love of learning as a young woman, becoming the Nantucket Atheneum's first librarian. She and her father continued to acquire astronomical equipment and conduct observations. / On October 1st, 1847, Maria was sweeping the sky from the roof of the Pacific National Bank on Main Street, where her father was the Cashier. She spotted a small blurry object that did not appear on her charts. She had discovered a comet! After achieving her fame, Maria was widely sought after and went on to achieve many great things. She resigned her post at the Atheneum in 1856 to travel throughout the US and Europe. In 1865, she became Professor of Astronomy at the newly-founded Vassar College. / Maria was an inspiration to her students. It was Vassar College that Maria felt was truly her home. She believed in learning by doing, and in the capacity of women to achieve what their male counterparts could. "Miss Mitchell" was beloved by her students whom she taught until her retirement in 1888, due to failing health. She died in 1889, and was buried next to her parents in Nantucket's Prospect Hill Cemetery. / "We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry." –Maria Mitchell.  PROVENANCE: Edward Everett (1794-1865), was president of Harvard University (1846-49), a position he did not enjoy. Of Everett: "With his many years of experience in high-level state, national, and international affairs, Everett (1794-1865) did not relish the prospect of running a university. . . He lived to regret it [accepting the position]. Students rained down a storm of clever pranks that swamped his patience - and Everett was not one to suffer in silence. "When I was asked to come to this university, I supposed I was to be at the head of the largest and most famous institution of learning in America," he declared one day at Morning Prayers. "I have been disappointed. I find myself the sub-master of an ill-disciplined school."" [Harvard Gazette News, "History of the Presidency: Edward Everett."  PROVENANCE: Amos Lawrence (1765-1852), merchant and philanthropist, who donated to libraries, established a children's hospital in Boston, and donated $10,000 to fund the completion of the Bunker's Hill Monument (his father had fought at the Battle of B.H.).
(Inventory #: S13601)
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