What Stars Are Made Of: The Life of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

Donovan Moore. Harvard Univ., $29.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-674-23737-7
Journalist Moore illuminates the amazing life and work of astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979) in his well-researched debut biography. Born in the English town of Wendover, Cecilia was “relentlessly” curious and taught herself math at a young age. Determined to be a scientist, Cecilia studied hard and earned a place at Cambridge in 1919, home to the finest minds in physics at the time. Lectures by Niels Bohr fueled Cecilia’s fascination with atomic physics and the new field of quantum mechanics. Moore vividly describes the challenges that Cecilia and other women faced. Cecilia’s determination and intelligence brought her to the U.S., where more professional opportunities existed for women, and to a position at Harvard College Observatory. There she met other female astronomers, including Henrietta Leavitt and Annie Jump Cannon, and used Harvard’s treasure trove of astronomical photos to determine the constituent elements of stars. In addition to Cecilia’s life, Moore captures a fascinating period of change in science, when physics was in flux and astrophysics was brand-new, and in the world as a whole, as new opportunities opened up for women. This is a fascinating look at a pioneer in science. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 02/14/2020
Release date: 03/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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