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Google Doodle honors Maria Mitchell, first American female astronomer (+video)

Today's Google Doodle honors Maria Mitchell, a pioneer in both astronomy and women's rights.

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In October 1847, Maria Mitchell perched on the roof of the Pacific National Bank in Nantucket, Mass., where her father worked as a cashier. There, through a telescope, she saw a comet that would go on to join a roster of celestial objects and earthly buildings named for her and her work.

Ms. Mitchell, the first female American astronomer, was born 195 years ago today, and her major contributions both to astronomy and to women’s rights are remembered in a Google Doodle. Today’s doodle follows one last month honoring Rosalind Franklin, the British biophysicist who contributed enormously to the discovery of DNA, and joins a number of Google Doodles celebrating pioneering women in science.

Mitchell’s Nantucket world was a seaside one, where time and direction were measured in the stars. As she grew up, she too looked to them – looked up, and found a comet, and then another one.

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That first comet, named "Miss Mitchell's Comet,” won her fame – and gold prizes from King Frederick VI of Denmark. In the years following, she became the first female member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. She then went on, in 1865, to become a professor of astronomy at Vassar College, as well as the director of the Vassar College Observatory.


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