Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979) made one of the world’s great scientific discoveries – what the universe is made of (more specifically, its chemical composition). But you will not find this fact in school textbooks, and when she made her discovery in 1925 the noted astronomers of the time dismissed it. Struggling against the obstacle of sexism and languishing in low status, low salaried positions, Payne-Gaposchkin remained dedicated to her pursuit of the science she loved and in time attained the position of full professor and chair of the Astronomy department at Harvard.
Payne-Gaposchkin was a brilliant astronomer and a trailblazer for women in science and academia. On this day, the 109th anniversary of her birth, I’m honored to pay this small tribute to her and hope that with each mention her name and achievements will become better known, and in our present day when women are still seriously underrepresented in the sciences, may inspire girls and young women who also love science to pursue their interests.
ESSAYS ON SCIENCE AND SOCIETY: The Shoulders of Giants
CECILIA PAYNE-GAPOSCHKIN: THE BRAVERY OF A MIND
“THE MOST BRILLIANT Ph.D. THESIS EVER WRITTEN IN ASTRONOMY”
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections