Vassar College opened in 1865 and the trustees voted to allow
women faculty, Maria accepted their offer. Athough she had never
had any higher education, she had attended a school for young
ladies conducted by an educational pioneerthe Unitarian
minister Cyrus Peirce.
She was born on Nantucket Island. There she and her banker father
made observations of the stars through a U.S. Coast Survey telescope.
Although she retained Quaker connections, she attended the Unitarian
Church on the island.
In 1847 she made the first telescopic discovery of a planet and
won a gold medal from the king of Denmark. Her role as a scientist
extended into the entire scientific community. Maria Mitchell
helped organize the Association for the Advancement of Science,
subsequently becoming its first woman member in 1850. She also
was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.