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Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

AKA Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin

Born: 10-May-1900
Birthplace: Wendover, Buckinghamshire, England
Died: 7-Dec-1979
Location of death: Cambridge, MA
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Astronomer, Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Hydrogen in the Sun

Cecilia Payne was inspired to study astronomy after attending lectures by Arthur Eddington, and became the first person to earn a PhD in astronomy from Harvard. In her doctoral thesis she expanded on her colleague Annie Jump Cannon's extensive cataloging of stellar spectra, and suggested classification of stars according to temperature. She also concluded that carbon, silicon, and numerous common metals are present in the Sun, but that helium and hydrogen are exponentially more abundant.

Though now known to be true, her theory of a Sun comprised largely of hydrogen contradicted the accepted science of her time, and after her findings were criticized as "clearly impossible" by Henry Norris Russell, she added a note explaining that her findings, although curious, were improbable and almost certainly wrong.

She worked under Harlow Shapley at the Harvard College Observatory, and petitioned to have Russian astronomer Sergei Gaposchkin released from Nazi Germany, even finding him a position at Harvard, where they were married. In 1956 she became the first woman tenured to a full professorship at Harvard University, and simultaneously she became the first woman to chair an academic department at Harvard.

Father: Edward John Payne (attorney)
Mother: Emma Leonora Helena Pertz Payne
Husband: Sergei Gaposchkin (m. Mar-1934)
Son: Edward Michael Gaposchkin (b. 1935)
Daughter: Katherine Leonora Haramundanis (author, b. 1937)
Son: Peter John Arthur Gaposchkin (physicist, b. 1940)

    High School: St Paul's Girls' School, London, England
    University: BS, Cambridge University (1923)
    University: PhD Astronomy, Radcliffe College (1925)
    Scholar: Harvard College Observatory, Harvard University (1923-27)
    Teacher: Astronomy, Harvard University (1927-56)
    Professor: Astronomy, Harvard University (1956-66)
    Scholar: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Harvard University (1967-79)

    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Astronomical Society
    American Philosophical Society
    National Research Council
    Royal Astronomical Society
    Phi Beta Kappa Society
    Naturalized US Citizen 1931
    English Ancestry

Author of books:
Variable Stars (1938, with Sergei Gaposchkin)
Stars in the Making (1952)
Variable Stars and Galactic Structure (1954)
Introduction to Astronomy (1954, with Katherine Haramundanis)
Galactic Novae (1957)
Variable Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud (1966, with Sergei Gaposchkin)
Stars and Clusters (1979)
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1984, with Katherine Haramundanis)


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