Her-Story Thursdays: Cecilia Payne - Gaposchkin


Born in 1900 in Britain, Cecilia attended St. Paul's Girls School and won a scholarship to Cambridge university in 1919. She completed the requirements for a degree but the university did not awarded it to her because they did not award degrees to women until 1948. After completing her studies, she moved to the United States on a fellowship to Harvard to study Astronomy in 1923. She was the second student on the fellowship.

In 1925, she wrote a doctoral dissertation and became the first person to earn a Ph.D in astronomy from the former Radcliffe College. Her entire academic career was spent at Harvard though she had no official position for much of it. In 1938 she was given the title of Astronomer and was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1943. In 1956 she became a full professor and, a few years later, became the first woman to head a department at Harvard.

Payne-Gaposchkin paved the way at Harvard for women to entire the "mainstream" of academia. Her work in the male dominated scientific community inspired many others. Though she faced lots discrimination Cecilia never let it affect her and continued to pursue her dreams.