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Jacqueline Mitton (1948–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1948, in Stoke-on-Trent, England; Education: Oxford University, B.A., 1969; Cambridge University, Ph.D., 1975.


Agent—Sara Menguc, 4 Hatch Place, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT2 5NB, England.


Teacher at convent school in Cambridge, England, 1972–74; Cambridge University, Cambridge, researcher in astronomy, 1975–78; writer, 1978—. British Antarctic Survey Headquarters, Cambridge, head of information, 1981–85; Journal of the British Astronomical Association, editor, 1987–93; Cambridge Health Authority, non-executive director, 1993–96; Maris Multimedia Ltd., consultant, 1995–98. Writer/consultant, Nugus Martin Productions, 1998–99. Part-time press officer for Royal Astronomical Society, 1989–2004.


International Astronomical Union, British Astronomical Association (council service, 1994–97, 1998–99), Royal Astronomical Society (fellow; council member, 2005–08), British Association for the Advancement of Science, American Astronomical Society (Planetary Sciences division), U.K. Planetary Forum.

Honors Awards

Marshall Children's Guide to Astronomy was short-listed for Rhone-Poulenc Junior Book prize, 1999; English Association Illustrated Children's Book Award, 2001, for Kingdom of the Sun.



Discovering the Planets, Troll Associates (Mahwah, NJ), 1991.

(With husband, Simon Mitton) Astronomy, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994, published as The Young Oxford Book of Astronomy, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1994.

(With Stephen Maran) Gems of Hubble, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Galileo: Scientist and Star Gazer, illustrated by Gerry Ball, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997, 2nd edition, 2000.

Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations, illustrated by Christina Balit, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 1998.

Aliens, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1998.

(With Simon Mitton) Marshall Children's Guide to Astronomy, Marshall, 1998, published as Scholastic Encyclopedia of Space, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Stars and Planets ("Young Oxford Library of Science" series), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Kingdom of the Sun: A Book of the Planets, illustrated by Christina Balit, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2001.

Once upon a Starry Night: A Book of Constellation Stories, illustrated by Christina Balit, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2003.

Zodiac: Elestial Circle of the Sun, illustrated by Christina Balit, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2004.

Let's Go to the Planets! ("Tree-Tops" nonfiction series), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2005.

Contributed articles to Children's Britannica, 1984; and Oxford Children's Encyclopedia, 1991.


Astronomy: An Introduction for the Amateur Astronomer, Scribner, 1978.

(With husband, Simon Mitton) The Prentice-Hall Concise Book of Astronomy, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1979.

(Co-editor with Simon Mitton, and author of introduction) Star Atlas, Crown (New York, NY), 1979.

(Translator from French with Simon Mitton) Jean Heidmann, An Introduction to Cosmology, Springer-Verlag, 1980.

Key Definitions in Astronomy, Frederick Muller, 1980, published as A Language of Its Own: Astronomy, Frederick Muller (London, England), 1981.

(With Simon Mitton) Invitation to Astronomy, Basil Blackwell (London, England), 1986.

Penguin Dictionary of Astronomy, Penguin (New York, NY), 1991, published as Concise Dictionary of Astronomy, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 3rd edition, 1998.

(Co-editor with John Spencer, and contributor) The Great Comet Crash: The Impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Alan Stern) Pluto and Charon: Ice Worlds at the Ragged Edge of the Solar System, Wiley, 1997, second edition, 2005.

Cambridge Dictionary of Astronomy, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Ralph Lorenz) Lifting Titan's Veil: Exploring the Giant Moon of Saturn, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

(Editor with Jim Bell) Asteroid Rendezvous: NEAR Shoemaker's Adventures at Eros, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.


Jacqueline Mitton began her writing career with her husband, Simon Mitton, but has gone on to become somewhat of an authority of all things astronomical. Sometimes working in association with coauthors, Mitton has written such standard reference works as the Cambridge Dictionary of Astronomy as well as other nonfiction books on astronomy for adults, and has also penned a diverse group of books for young adults and children. In each case Mitton's ability to summarize and lyrically explicate difficult concepts and large amounts of material has been lauded. "Although people imagine writing for children is easy," Mitton once commented to Something about the Author (SATA) regarding her career as a science writer, "there is a real challenge in choosing the few words and ideas carefully."

Written for a young-adult audience, Mitton's Aliens profiles the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence The stories of Hercules, Andromeda, Pegasus, and Cassiopeia find their source in ancient man's quest to understand the night skies, as recounted in Jacqueline Mitton's Once upon a Starry Night, featuring illustrations by Christina Balit.(SETI) project, lists aliens from movies, excerpts an issue of UFOs: The Magazine with All the Answers, and recounts several tales of encounters with aliens, explaining why the existence of other intelligent life in our solar system is unlikely. "This inviting mix of hype and hypotheses will draw readers like a magnet," predicted John Peters in a review of the book for School Library Journal.

In the hopes of sparking an early interest in the stars and planets, Mitton has written several books for young readers. Zoo in the Sky depicts animals among the constellations as they can be seen in the night sky, their shapes highlighted in glittering stars. A companion volume, Once upon a Starry Sky: A Book of Constellations, selects ten constellations and retells the Greek myths that gave these star groupings their names. Zoo in the Sky was praised as a picture book that "certainly has eye appeal" by Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan. Echoing the same opinion, Donna L. Scanlon in School Library Journal dubbed the book a "lovely and unusual offering" that serves as "an attractive introduction to astronomy" as well as an effective entree into discussions on mythology and folklore. "Mitton's vivid word choices make the text as dynamic as [illustrator Christina] Balit's striking pictures," noted Phelan of Once upon a Starry Sky, while a Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed the book "another winner in the stars-for-kids department."

Mitton told Something about the Author (SATA) that her collaboration with Balit has been a particularly enjoyable and fruitful one. "I love Christina's colorful and imaginative style, which inspired me to write three more Astronomer Mitton shares her enthusiasm for the magic of the night sky, as well as a wealth of ancient lore, in Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations. (Illustration by Christina Balit.)books after Zoo in the Sky. We were both thrilled when Kingdom of the Sun won the UK's English Association award in 2001 for best illustrated children's nonfiction in its age-group class." The fourth book from the collaboration is another exploration of constellations titled Zodiac.

Mitton once commented to SATA: "I doubt whether I would have ever written anything at all if my husband, Simon, had not started writing when we were both graduate students. At the time I thought, 'If he can do it, I can do it.'" Commenting on the books she has authored jointly with her husband, Mitton noted: "Our joint efforts have been particularly fruitful since we specialize in separate fields. The criticism we offer each other seems to result in something better than we might have produced individually. We have no problems in working together."

Due to her knowledge and her success as a writer, Mitton has served as a consultant to publisher Dorling Kindersley on their children's astronomy and space books. She has made significant contributions to numerous titles for them, including Night Sky Atlas, Stargazer, and E-encyclopedia of Science. "I like writing," Mitton noted, "but I am also keen on my consultancy work as I feel strongly that reference books for children should include the most up-to-date and accurate information—and it is not easy for publishers and non-specialist writers to keep up with a subject like astronomy where new discoveries are made every day."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Astronomy, June, 2001, Stephen P. Maran, review of The Cambridge Astronomy Dictionary, p. 94.

Booklist, November 1, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of Zoo in the Sky, p. 498; January 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Once upon a Starry Night: A Book of Constellations, p. 868.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of Once upon a Starry Night, p. 86.

Library Journal, March 15, 2001, Teresa Berry, review of The Cambridge Astronomy Dictionary, p. 72.

Magpies, November, 1992, p. 36.

Nature, April 2, 1992, R. J. Tayler, review of A Concise Dictionary of Astronomy, pp. 395-396.

School Librarian, November, 1997, p. 205.

School Library Journal, July, 1997, Darrell G. Ardoin, review of Gems of Hubble, p. 118; December, 1998, Donna L. Scanlon, review of Zoo in the Sky, p. 111; July, 1999, John Peters, review of Aliens, p. 111; January, 2004, Dona Ratterree, review of Once upon a Starry Night, p. 120.

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