Mary Proctor

Mary Proctor
Mary Proctor sketch.jpg
Sketch of Proctor that appeared in The New York Times on September 9, 1894.
Born 1862
Died September 11, 1957
Parent(s) Richard A. Proctor
Marty Proctor

Mary Proctor (1862 – September 11, 1957) was an American popularizer of astronomy.[1] While not a professional astronomer, Proctor became well known for her books and articles written for the public – particularly her children's fiction.[2] Despite various claims as being an American, there is a passenger list of about 1924 where she gives nationality as British.

Early life

Mary Proctor was born in Dublin, Ireland,[3] the daughter of Mary and Richard Proctor. Proctor's mother died in 1879. Her father remarried in 1881 and her family immigrated to the United States settling in Saint Joseph, Missouri in 1882.[3]

Proctor's father was a British popularizer of astronomy, lecturer, and writer. As she grew up, Proctor often assisted her father in his work, looking after his library and correcting proofs of his books before they went to publication. She graduated from the London College of Preceptors in 1898.[2]

The crater Proctor on the Moon was named after her and Proctor on Mars was named after her father.)[4][5]


In 1881, Proctor assisted her father in founding and producing a journal called Knowledge. She wrote a series of articles on the topic of comparative mythology. After a well-received appearance at the World's Columbian Exposition 1893, she eventually developed a career as an astronomy lecturer. Her book-length debut, Stories of Starland (1898), was adopted by the New York City Board of Education. She worked as an astronomy teacher in private schools while attending Columbia University.[2]


Proctor authored many articles for newspapers, journals and published numerous popular books. Her articles and books were mostly aimed for young readers, which earned her the nickname "the children's astronomer." Her books were easy to read, accurate, informative and well illustrated. Known and respected by many professional astronomers, Proctor became an elected member of the British Astronomical Association in 1897 and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1898. In 1916, she was elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.[2][6]


  • Stories Of Starland, 1895.
  • Giant Sun And His Family, 1896.
  • "Halley's Comet after 75 years rushes Earthward again", San Francisco Call, August 23, 1908.
  • Half Hours With The Summer Stars, 1911.
  • Legends Of The Stars, 1922.
  • The Children's Book Of The Heavens, 1924.
  • Evenings With The Stars, 1924.
  • Legends Of The Sun And Moon, 1926.
  • The Romance Of Comets, 1926.
  • The Romance Of The Sun, 1927.
  • The Romance Of The Moon, 1928.
  • The Romance Of The Planets, 1929.
  • Wonders Of The Sky, 1931.
  • Our Stars Month By Month, 1937
  • M. Proctor and A. C. D. Crommelin, Comets, 1937.
  • Everyman's Astronomy 1939.
  • Comets, Meteors And Shooting Stars, 1940.


  1. ^ "Corresponding Member: Miss Mary Proctor". Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Moore, Patrick (2007). "Proctor, Mary". In Hockey, Thomas; Trimble, Virginia; Williams, Thomas R. (eds.). Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. 2. New York, NY: Springer Publishing. p. 934. ISBN 9780387304007.
  3. ^ a b Hoffleit, Dorrit (2001). "The Maria Mitchell Observatory--For Astronomical Research and Public Enlightenment". The Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. 30 (1): 67. Bibcode:2001JAVSO..30...62H.
  4. ^ Autostar Suite Astronomer Edition. CD-ROM. Meade, April 2006.
  5. ^ Saum, Lewis O. (February 1999). "The Proctor interlude in St. Joseph and in America: Astronomy, romance and tragedy" (PDF). American Studies International. 37 (1): –54. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  6. ^ "Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, August 1898". Retrieved 12 February 2015.

Further reading

  • Creese, Mary R. S. (1998). Ladies in the laboratory? : American and British women in science, 1800-1900 : a survey of their contributions to research. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow. pp. 236–238. ISBN 9780810832879.
  • Lienhard, John H. "Episode no. 2681: Mary Proctor". Engines of our ingenuity. Houston Public Media. Retrieved 24 May 2014.

External links