Talcott Mountain Science Center and Academy honors the life of Carolyn Shoemaker, a renowned astronomer we had the pleasure of hosting in 1989 at our SCISTAR program, “A Window on the World of Science.” At the time, Shoemaker had discovered more comets than any other astronomer and was blazing a trail for women in STEM.
Best known for the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, Shoemaker had a unique outlook on her work- no matter what the project, it wasn’t worth doing unless it was fun. This mindset is what led her down a road of scientific discoveries in a field that she loved. Surprisingly, however, Shoemaker didn’t realize she loved science until she was 51 years old, finding it to be mostly trivial and frustrating. It wasn’t until she met her husband and fellow scientist, Gene Shoemaker, that she began seeing the world of science through a new lens.
Alongside her husband, Shoemaker kick-started her career in astronomy, discovering a total of 32 comets including the famous Shoemaker-Levy 9. Shoemaker and her husband received several accolades throughout their careers, including the Rittenhouse Medal in 1988 and the Scientists of the Year Award in 1955. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Northern Arizona University in 1990 and the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1996.
Shoemaker passed away on August 13th of this year, leaving behind an incredible legacy. The next time you look up at the night sky, remember Carolyn Shoemaker, who reminds us that it’s never too late to fall in love with science.