Sweeper in the Sky: The Life of Maria Mitchell, First Woman Astronomer in America

Sweeper in the Sky: The Life of Maria Mitchell, First Woman Astronomer in America

Sweeper in the Sky: The Life of Maria Mitchell, First Woman Astronomer in America

Sweeper in the Sky: The Life of Maria Mitchell, First Woman Astronomer in America

Excerpt

The path of a biographer leads to strange and often fascinating places. It always leads farther than at first anticipated. It usually takes longer than originally planned--longer than anyone who has not written such a book can ever understand. The biographer never knows when or where he may come across some detail which will add to his knowledge of his subject. He can never tell what hidden source may reveal untold and often unexpected treasure--or, on the other hand, what trail, after long and discouraging search, may lead to a dead end. He uncovers much he will never use. He finds many details which at the time assume importance but later fade into the background. Yet, in spite of the difficulties and the problems encountered in such a search, the task of a biographer is among the most rewarding. It is rewarding not only for the material discovered but for the friends made along the way.

In the tracing of the life of Maria Mitchell this path has led first to Nantucket, then to other New England towns and cities--to Boston, to Lynn, to Cambridge, to Middlebury, Vermont. It has wandered across the border into New York State--to Poughkeepsie, the scene of the later years of her life; to New York City, to Millbrook and Dover Plains in Dutchess County. It has even gone into the West and the South of the nineteenth century, and into the England, the France, the Italy and the Germany of that same period. Some of these journeys have been made physically, others in the imagination. As it is impossible to write the life of an astronomer without venturing beyond the earth's bounds, the latter method has been particularly necessary in the writing of this . . .

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