Following the furious writing campaign, Maria Mitchell is finally awarded the Gold Medal from the King of Denmark for discovering a comet. Now with the help of President Edward Everett of Harvard College and Alexander Dallas Bache of the US Coast Survey, the whole world is about to learn Maria’s name.
In this episode, Jascin and Jim discuss what doors the comet discovery opens for Maria and the people she would meet along the way.
This has been a production of the Nantucket Atheneum.
Written, edited and narrated by Janet Forest
Special thanks to the Atheneum’s Reference Library Associate Jim Borzilleri and Historian and Deputy Director of the Maria Mitchell Association Jascin Leonardo Finger for their research and insights.
Resources and additional information:
If you want to know more about this topic, check our this very thorough list of resources that Jim has compiled: FURTHER READING
• Maria Mitchell traveled to Europe twice. First in 1857 and again in 1873. She remained in contact through letters with the people she met even if she never saw them in person again.
• When the Nautical Almanac was proposed, Alexander Dallas Bache, Charles Henry Davis, and their colleagues wanted to use an American Prime Meridian in the calculations, but once again ran into resistance against a “National Observatory”. The issue was escalated to Congress, and the House Committee on Naval Affairs, and the “compromise” was that Washington D.C. would be used as the Prime Meridian for astronomy and geography, while Greenwich (The Royal Observatory) was used as the Prime Meridian for navigation.
• To learn more about the Marvelous Miss Harriet Martineau (the original influencer!), check out Season 2, Episode 6.
• Find more about Harriet Hosmer and her work here:
• More about Maria Mitchell's admiration of Mary Somerville from the December, 26, 2022 edition of DayBreak from True Island Digital:
"The preeminent British polymath and science writer Mary Fairfax Somerville was born on this date in 1780. Among her many publications was the first, Mechanism of the Heavens (1831), and her groundbreaking The Connection of the Physical Sciences (1834). The latter “was even more ambitious in summarizing astronomy, physics, geography, and meteorology,” explains Britannica.com. Both inspired many European astronomers.
Mary Fairfax Somerville portrait, public domain • Vassar Encylopedia | | Among Somerville’s most avid American admirers was Nantucket-born astronomer Maria Mitchell. In 1858, while touring Europe, Mitchell met with the aging Somerville for multiple visits— chronicled by Vassar College, where Mitchell became