Today’s Google logo celebrates the first professional female astronomer in the US, Maria Mitchell. The animated logo depicts Mitchell atop a roof, staring at the stars with a handheld telescope.
Before becoming a professional astronomer, Mitchell discovered a comet in 1847 that was named Miss Mitchell’s Comet. In recognition of her discovery, she was awarded a gold medal prize from King Frederick VII of Denmark with the inscription, “Not in vain do we watch the setting and rising of the stars.”
Mitchell was the first librarian of the Nantucket Atheneum where she would remain employed for 18 years. Following her role at the Nantucket Atheneum, she accepted the position of Professor of Astronomy at the newly-founded Vassar College.
Mitchell’s long list of accomplishments includes co-founder of the American Association for the Advancement of Women, and first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1869, Mitchell was one of the first women elected to the American Philosophical Society. After her death, the famous astronomer was inducted into the US National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.
Beyond her list of firsts, Mitchell had a World War II Liberty Ship named in her honor (the “SS Maria Mitchell“), as well as a crater on the Moon. Mitchell died June 28, 1889 and is buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery on the island of Nantucket, where the Maria Mitchell Observatory is named in her honor.