Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Sunday, November 10, 2013

8-1-13 RMB Maria Mitchell

8-1-13 RMB Maria Mitchell
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
I know you are not a computer person, I’m not either really. I took courses, thinking that any knowledge in the area would assist me using the computer in my future writing career and at any job I find myself in. I learned enough to be dangerous, enough to know how little I know and how much there is to know.
I marvel that you continue to write and be so prolific with your pen and paper. Your dedication to the craft inspires me.
One of the search engines on the internet is Google. This new age includes entities that we can reach into and explore our universe, much as an encyclopedia had done for centuries. As the encyclopedia progressed, from some long ago handwritten version to print, to print with color, etc., this new entity sometimes talks back, telling us something, before we ask anything.
Today Google says it is the birthday of Maria Mitchell. This is the first I’ve heard of Maria. She was born August 1, 1818 in Nantucket, Massachusetts and died June 28th, 1889 in Lynn, Massachusetts. Her field of study was Astronomy. That she had any field of study in that time is impressive. She discovered C/1847 T1, whatever that is, and she is known at the first female U.S. astronomer.
Here is what Google says about her: She became the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848 and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1850. She later worked at the U.S. Nautical Almanac Office, calculating tables of positions of Venus, and traveled in Europe with Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family.
She became professor of astronomy at Vassar College in 1865, the first person (male or female) appointed to the faculty. She was also named as Director of the Vassar College Observatory. After teaching there for some time, she learned that despite her reputation and experience, her salary was less than that of many younger male professors. She insisted on a salary increase, and got it.

It sounds like she fought many of the battles that you fought centuries later. Was your path made possible by her efforts? Was the progress you made a progression of her work?
I believe the answer to both queries is yes, most definitely. But here’s the thing that irks me, why must humans continue to fight the same battles, generation after generation. What does it take to look at another’s wisdom and apply it without having to experience the learning of the lesson?
Once we burn a finger on the stove, we learn not to touch it again, but each person must learn that for themselves. We tell children “Do as I say, not as I do” and, of course, they proceed to do what they see and not what they hear.
Is it because we are sentient beings, needing to feel before we can fully comprehend? If so, then I appreciate the arts all the more. Stories, movies, images, they can move us to feel. They can move us forward, without the loss of life and bodily scars.

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