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Margherita Hack RIP

Margherita Hack, icon and reference figure for worldwide Astronomy, known as “the lady of the stars”, died at the age of 91.

Margherita Hack was not only a scientist but also a prominent figure of Italian culture. She has always proclaimed her strong atheism and actively participated in the Italian political life. In 2006 she was elected to the Chamber of deputies with the Italian communist party but she left the assignment to go back to Astronomy.  

Born in Florence from a Protestant father and a Catholic mother, Margherita Hack graduated in 1945 with a thesis on astrophysics research on Cepheid, a class of variable stars. The work was conducted at the Astronomical Observatory of Arcetri, where she started to work on stellar spectroscopy, which became her main field of research.

She was the first woman to direct an Astronomic observatory in Italy. Margherita Hack led the observatory of Trieste from 1964 to 1987 and contributed substantially to research and star classification of many star categories contributing to the international recognition of the Institute. The asteroid 8558 Hack is named after her.

Since 1982 Hack has also worked in close collaboration with the astrophysics section of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA).

She is considered one of the most important Italian Astrophysicist and the initiator of Italian Scientific divulgation. The scientist alternated the writing of scientific papers with, divulgation as she had the ability to explain the most complicated concepts in such a way that a large group of people could understand them and become interested in Astrophysics.

The Treaty “Stellar Spectroscopy”, written at Berkeley in 1959 with Otto Struve (1897-1963) is still considered a fundamental text. Over time, Margherita Hack has worked with many newspapers, specialist periodicals, founding in 1978 the magazine "Astronomy" which she directed.
Professor of astronomy from 1964 to 1997 at the University of Trieste, her university teaching and research favoured the creation of an Institute of Astronomy (1980), replaced in 1985 by a Department, which Hack directed until 1990.

Always engaged in the field of popular science, she has received numerous awards, including the “premio linceo” of the “Accademia dei lincei” (1980) and the Prize of Culture of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers (1987). 

Giulia Lombardo

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