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A Shooting Star of American Astronomy: Maria Mitchell: Background information when reading Enlightenment

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Enlightenment by Sarah Perry


A Novel

by Sarah Perry
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  • Jun 4, 2024
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A Shooting Star of American Astronomy: Maria Mitchell

This article relates to Enlightenment

Black-and=white portrait of Maria Mitchell from 1851, showing the astronomer gazing upward through a telescope The central mystery of Sarah Perry's Enlightenment concerns an astronomer, Maria Văduva, and Thomas's uncovering of her hidden scientific contributions. Many real-life historical women partook in exploration of the night sky and space only for their discoveries to be similarly buried or forgotten. One such woman was the nineteenth-century astronomer Maria Mitchell.

Mitchell was the first American astronomer to discover a comet. She was born on August 1, 1818, the third eldest of ten children, to William and Lydia Mitchell in Nantucket, Massachusetts. As Quakers, Mitchell's parents believed in equal education for all children regardless of gender, in a time when the schooling of girls was highly limited, and sent her to Cyrus Peirce's School for Young Ladies. By the age of twelve, Mitchell was able to help her father, an astronomer and teacher, with calculating their home's location through observations of a solar eclipse. By fourteen, she was rating chronometers for ...

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