When Google Maps wasn’t a thing yet, people had to rely on our ancestors’ trusty heavenly bodies to navigate the vast ocean. Celestial navigational methods were essential to save lives. That was the situation during World War II when technology was not as reliable, and sailors had to rely on the stars and the help of a brilliant navigator by the name of Mary Tornich Janislawski.

Bright Beginnings

According to History, Mary was born in San Francisco on June 9, 1908, to Italian and Yugoslavian immigrants. When she was young, Mary would wear aviator helmets made of scraps of felt sewn together. In her 20s, she had to work in a candy factory to send herself to the University of California, Berkley, where she studied astronomy and graduated with honors.

In the 1930s, Captain Philip Van Horn Weems discovered Mary and took her under his wing as a protege, at that time when men dominated the world of navigation. He was the one who taught her nautical and aerial navigation methods since he was an adjunct professor at U.C. Berkley, Stanford, and Polytechnic College of Engineering in Oakland. Weems was known as “The Grand Old Man of Navigation” and taught Charles Lindbergh how to navigate Admiral Richard Byrd to fly.

Entrance to WWII

Mary soon married Captain Stanley Janislawski, a mariner and navigator. Together, they spent their lives practicing navigation and teaching the craft. After she graduated, she began teaching navigation to Bay Area mariners.