MARIA MITCHELL, FIRST LADY OF AMERICAN ASTRONOMY by Helen L. Morgan

MARIA MITCHELL, FIRST LADY OF AMERICAN ASTRONOMY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1847, when she was twenty-eight, Maria Mitchell gained worldwide recognition for the discovery of a new comet through the small telescope of her Nantucket observatory. Her life up to that point had been relatively uneventful, we are told. She had shown an early penchant for the astronomical interests of her teacher father, who was responsible for most of her formal learning--especially in mathematics. She had proven her mechanical aptitude by calibrating a ship's chronometer at fourteen and she grew up to be the first woman professor of astronomy at Vassar College. But Helen Morgan never makes it clear how this young, only slightly rebellious Quaker girl who liked to fix chronometers and look through telescopes became so respected an astronomer. (Her discovery of a comet as an amateur, while exciting, did not make Maria a scientist). The facts of Mitchell's life are obscured by insipid dialogue, vague allusions, and irrelevant observations. (""Maria, now thirty-one, still wore her black hair in curls. She considered herself homely, but respected her own worth."") ""Maria would have found the title of 'First American Woman Scientist' a bit pretentious,"" claims Morgan. She gives us no reason to think otherwise. Certainly no improvement over the Rachel Baker stand-by.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1977
Publisher: Westminster