Born in 1818 (the same year Venus occulted Jupiter), Maria Mitchell was not only America's first female astronomer, she was also the first person in the country's history to discover a comet – a feat she accomplished at the age of 29, with little more than a two-inch telescope.
"We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us; and the more we gain, the more is our desire," Mitchell once said of humanity's insatiable appetite for understanding. "The more we see, the more we are capable of seeing."
Mitchell practiced what she preached. An accomplished astronomer, librarian and naturalist, she is also remembered as a gifted educator. Her influence as an inspiration to young minds is felt to this day in the form of the Maria Mitchell Association, which strives to carry on "her legacy of intellectual curiosity, respect for and love of nature, learning by doing, and the ideal of individualism."
Read more about Mitchell and her legacy at the National Women's History Museum.