Today’s Google Doodle honors a 19th century woman whose name has been stamped across the heavens -- Maria Mitchell, America’s first professional female astronomer. Today would have been her 195th birthday.
Mitchell was born in Nantucket to a Quaker family with a strong belief in education; her father, himself an astronomer, taught her how to search the skies using his telescope. She was the second woman to discover a comet (known as Miss Mitchell’s Comet) and won a gold medal from Denmark’s King Frederick VII for that accomplishment.
Mitchell used a tiny 2-inch telescope to discover her namesake comet, “which illustrates her true skill as an astronomer,” according to the National Women’s History Museum.
That’s not the only object in space that bears Miss Mitchell’s mark – there’s a Nantucket-sized crater on the moon named after her, as well as the asteroid #1455, Mitchella.
Mitchell, a stong opponent of slavery, was also the first person -- male or female -- to be picked for Vassar College’s faculty, and the first woman admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science.
Another notable woman in science featured in a Google doodle this year: Rosalind Franklin, whose once-unsung findings aided in the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure.
The doodle also recently featured Julius Petri, creator of the Petri dish.