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Professional pioneer
Proctor's slide of the view from Mount Wilson
Image Credit: RAS

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Making a career out of astronomy outreach seems a very modern choice, yet Mary Proctor was doing exactly this a hundred years ago.

Making a living as a freelance astronomy writer and lecturer is precarious at best, yet that is what Mary Proctor did after the death of her father, Richard, in 1888. She had begun to write about the subject with support form her father, but thanks to a misundertsanding, she discovered her ability to engage and audeince at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893. She was expecting and audience of children, and had preppared accordingly, but found herself on stage in front of adults; speaking without notes and in a conversational style, she wowed them and her career as a lecturer had begun. 

Proctor acheived recognition because of her easy, chatty style and her ability to discuss new developments in the subject as well as more general astronomy. She was well known and respected among among astronomers and kept up withthe sceince, observing the 1927 total solar eclipse from a biplane, for example. Despite her industry – by 1901 she had given at least 500 lectures – her finances were often precarious and when she looked back on her life, she saw it as a struggle. But it was a struggle that led to her successful career. 

 

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