A Woman to Know: Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

... the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy. — physicist Otto Struve

(image via Smithsonian)


Cecilia crammed more thought in her PhD thesis than other scientists accomplished in their entire careers. Her 1925 paper concerned the composition of stars -- how to look at the snowflakes of helium and the varying amounts of hyrdogen to attempt to date celestial bodies and thusly, date the universe. And her later work at the Harvard Observatory, analyzing stars and charting their makeup, laid the foundation for an entire field of study: "stellar evolution."

Cecilia also took it upon herself to mentor younger female scientists, and her success encouraged the observatory to hire more women.

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