Person: Payne-Gaposchkin, Cecilia
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was a British mathematician and astronomer who did important work for her Ph.D. at Radcliffe College of Harvard University. She showed that stars were composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium but, although completely correct, it was rejected by astronomers at the time.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- For simplicity, we will use name Payne-Gaposchkin throughout this biography.
- Edward Payne died when Cecilia was four years old.
- When she was six years old, Cecilia began to attend a local school in Wendover which had just opened across the street from where she lived.
- Cecilia was very musical and was a gifted pianist but music did not play a part in her school education.
- From a very young age Payne-Gaposchkin had wanted to be a scientist, being at this time most interested in botany, but with no help from her school she turned to the books in her own home.
- A new science teacher, Dorothy Dalglish, saw that Payne-Gaposchkin wanted to learn more science than was in the few lessons given to second year pupils so she lent her physics books and took her to museums.
- Although the combination was unusual, Payne-Gaposchkin was allowed to study botany, physics and chemistry.
- The event which turned Payne-Gaposchkin to astronomy was a lecture by Arthur Eddington.
- In 1931 Payne-Gaposchkin became a US citizen, however tragic events in 1932-33 changed her life.
- In 1943 she published The Scholar and the World which gives a fascinating account of the way that Payne-Gaposchkin saw the world and how astronomy fitted into it.
- Eventually Payne-Gaposchkin obtained a position more appropriate to her contributions.
- Payne-Gaposchkin received many honours.
- It was republished in Katherine Haramundanis (ed.), Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (Cambridge University Press, 1984).
Born 10 May 1900, Wendover, England. Died 7 December 1979, Tewksbury, Massachusetts, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin England, Women
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive