Quiz Bio: Louisa Mitchel

Louisa Clark Trask Mitchel (09 Nov 1809 – 20 Aug 1861) was born destined for greatness. Louisa Clark’s first husband Thomas Sterne Trask was a rising star in the military, but he died from illness early in his career. With a new baby, Louisa was being courted by Trask’s West Point classmate Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel. They soon married and wound up in Cincinnati, where he called on all his West Point friends for work. The family, active in Lyman Beecher’s congregation and the Semi-Colon Club, began growing, and eventually Louisa kicked Ormsby in the butt to get better work. After a variety of jobs, Ormsby began working towards something bigger: the first public Observatory in the U.S. After John Quincy Adams came to dedicate the cornerstone, Louisa stayed at home to organize and care for the family, while Ormsy learned astronomy from Europe’s leading astronomers. He returned, and finished the building. Louisa served as business administrator and and Ormsby’s assistant. In doing this, she was the first woman in the world to view Neptune, before even Ormsby. She would learn to reel Ormsby in when his dreams and personality became too big for reality. As Louisa’s health began failing, the Mitchels made the decision to return to her home in New York, where she could be closer to her beloved family. When the Civil War came, Louisa bade Ormsby to serve the Union, and they would never see each other again. She died shortly after his departure in 1861, and he from yellow fever the next year while serving. For more on Louisa’s story, see S.E.’s post on her.