Pioneering astronomer Maria Mitchell is the star of a children’s book that uses an ancient language she knew: Latin.
born in massachusetts Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) is best known for discovering a kite in 1847 and working to inspire women astronomers as a professor of astronomy at Vassar College, which she joined in 1865. Some 205 years after her birth, Mitchell continues to inspire as America’s first female astronomer.
His legacy inspired Rachel Beth Cunning, a teacher of Latin and English as a Second Language, to accept the challenge of making a children’s science book —a journey that took Cunning back to his childhood, when he subscribed to astronomy magazines and read about the stars Her Latin book is called Astronomia: Fabula Planetarium (Astronomy: Stories of the Planets; Bombax Press, 2022), and you can buy it on amazon (opens in a new tab).
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“One of the things that I’m usually very interested in, as someone who loves history and who loves nerdy science stuff and who loves literature and languages, is all the voices that get lost through time,” Cunning told Space. .com in an interview. in early March, which is Women’s History Month.
“There are a lot of voices that get lost,” Cunning continued, “and unfortunately, they tend to be women’s voices.”
Latin was the language of ancient Rome and, for a time, much of the world that the old imperialists conquered; Latin then continued for centuries as the primary language of the Christian church.
Much of the existing Latino literature today is masculine, but a precious minority of the writing is feminine and receives more scholarly attention. It is believed that female voices were lost over the centuries due not only to a lack of literacy or time to write, but also because medieval preservationists who rewrote faded ancient manuscripts in what we now call Europe and the Middle East were not so inclined to include female voices.
Mitchell was fluent enough to read science books in latin (opens in a new tab) in his childhood, which was not unusual in the 19th century; today, however, the scholastic role of Latin has changed considerably.
Descendants of Latin live today in languages such as French, Spanish, and Portuguese (in addition to English, since the language began to borrow heavily from French after the Norman Conquest). But Latin is rarely taught in schools or universities anymore. That said, there is a growing “living Latin” movement of YouTubers, novel writers, and teachers using Latin in class as a spoken language, rather than a grammar puzzle. That’s where the book on Mitchell comes in.
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Cunning paid tribute to numerous educators who came before her and strove to make Latin more relevant to today. She herself found clever translations for “spaceship” and other modern technical Latin terms, thanks to research in the community.
The story is intended to motivate young Latin students to continue pursuing their interests in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Cunning said, through the example Mitchell herself set during an era when women didn’t even they could vote.
“You see this woman dancer, advocating for education and the importance of education, and her role in helping other women get access to education. She’s really great, and she’s also done so much for so many different groups,” Cunning said. pointing particularly to Mitchell’s Vassar College days.
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Cunning added that she wants to help expand the available Latin literature and continue to write novels from a female perspective, or at least include female voices. some of hers others works in latin (opens in a new tab) they include the myths of Cupid and Psyche, along with a fictional tale of a girl living in Pompeii.
These female voices are necessary for students, Cunning emphasized. “I want them to feel like they’re part of a long line of history, because they’re part of a long line of women who are wonderful, smart, and funny, who have made amazing contributions to science, to the world, and to our understanding of That’s What.” What I have often felt was missing from my own education, is to feel that sense of continuity.
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of “Why am I taller? (opens in a new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Espaciodotcom (opens in a new tab) either Facebook (opens in a new tab).