Women of Interest – Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was born May 10, 1900, in Wendover, Buckinghamshire and died December 7, 1979, in Cambridge Massachusetts. She was a British-American astronomer and astrophysicist who is known for the explanation of the spectra of the Sun and more than 3,000,000 observations of stars. Payne-Gaposchkin was the first person to earn a PhD in astronomy from Harvard. Astronomers commented on Gaposchkin’s PhD thesis as “the most brilliant ever written in astronomy.” Astronomer Henry Norris Russell discouraged her from presenting the conclusions of her thesis, as they contradicted the data at the time. Four years later Russell came to the same conclusion and published it. Although he did mention Gaposchkin’s finding briefly in his paper, Russell was often given credit for this discovery.

Information on the many academic books and papers attributed to Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin can be found at the following websites:

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