Graves of David and Mabel Todd – Amherst, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

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Graves of David and Mabel Todd

Wildwood Cemetery

One was an astronomer who spent his life chasing solar eclipses, the other helped make Emily Dickinson famous. 

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In Wildwood Cemetery, a pair of graves mark the final resting places of Mabel and David Todd. David Peck Todd was an astronomy instructor and observatory director at Amherst College in Massachusetts in the late 1800s. He focused much of his work on solar phenomena, especially solar eclipses. He and his wife, Mabel Loomis Todd, made several trips around the world to observe eclipses, often spending years planning out trips and raising money for them.

Unfortunately, every one of David’s expeditions was thwarted by cloudy weather that prevented him from actually observing and photographing the eclipses. When David and Mabel made an expedition to St Petersburg, Russia in 1914, the astronomer planned to use an airplane to fly above the clouds to finally observe an eclipse. However, the outbreak of the Great War forced them to leave before the solar event occurred.

Mabel Loomis Todd wrote extensively about the cultures the two of them encountered during their astronomical expeditions, and eventually became a successful author and reporter. In 1894 she published Total Eclipses of the Sun; a book that helped popularize the science of eclipses.

While living in Amherst, Mabel became close with the family of Emily Dickinson, and regularly corresponded with the reclusive writer through exchanged notes and conversations through the walls. After Emily’s death in 1886, her sister asked Mabel to edit and publish the poet’s work.

Mabel’s grave is adorned with a carving of Ghost Pipe flowers based on a painting she made for the first published edition of Emily Dickinson’s Poems. David’s grave has a depiction of an eclipse that eluded him so many times throughout his life.

Know Before You Go

 

Enter Wildwood Cemetary at the entrance near the junction of Strong Street and Hills Road. The cemetary path forms a loop. Take the right path and follow it a quarter of the way around. The Todd's graves are on the right side of the path. 

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