Women's History Month Spotlight: Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

Updated: Mar. 11, 2015 at 6:26 AM CDT
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It's Women's History Month and #WomenYouShouldHaveHeardOf has been trending on Facebook and Twitter.

Here's a woman you may not have heard of: Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin.

She was an astro-physicist who completed her Ph.D. at Cambridge in the 19-20's, but they didn't give degrees to women at the time, so she came to the US to get hers.

Gaposchkin was the first woman to get a PhPh.D.n Astronomy from Radcliffe University, with what one the top scientific minds at the time says was,"undoubtedly the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy". She determined that stars are primarily made of Hydrogen and Helium gas.

A male colleague tried to convince her not to publish because he thought she was wrong, only to come to the same conclusion a few years later. (Wikipedia)

Gaposchkin had three children, but remained but remained at scientifically active at Harvard, receiving little pay, and despite her work low status among the faculty. Much of her career she worked as a technical assistant to male researchers.

In 1938, Harvard gave her the title of astronomer, and in 1954 she became the first woman to be promoted to full-professor in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Later, she became the first woman to head a department at Harvard chairing the Department of Astronomy.(www.sheisanastronomer.org)