Margherita Hack, the lady of the stars was born a hundred years ago

She was the first Italian to run an astronomical observatory in Trieste. But above all, a great disseminator and a face known even to the youngest. Margherita Hack was born on June 12, 1922.

She was the first, Margherita Hack. He headed an astronomical observatory in Trieste, Italy, which he took on in 1964. He obtained a chair in astronomy at the University of the same city. It’s not that astronomers have been missing in Italy in recent centuries. But there were too many obstacles. Caterina Scarpellini, for example, in the 19th century had to deal with the Vatican, which had only resigned itself to the idea that the Earth was not at the center of the universe. Margherita Hack did not grow up in an easy period either: she was born on June 12, 1922, or about four months before the March on Rome by Benito Mussolini and his acolytes. With fascism, for women, began a period of exclusion from universities and almost all professions. But the paradox is that at that time they studied girls who did not want to give up. And Margherita, who allegedly died on June 29, 2013, 17 days after turning 91, was one of them. – photo

BORN IN FLORENCEAnd despite his long years in Trieste, he always maintained the discourse and verve of his city. Her freedom of thought also came from her parents, both anti-fascists: her father, an accountant, was a Protestant, and her mother, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts and a miniature of the Uffizi, was a Catholic. Both, however, moved away from the original religions and joined the Theosophical Society, of which Roberto Hack was, for a time, also secretary. It was a unique esoteric-philosophical-religious movement that was very successful in Europe and the United States in the second half of the 19th century. He was referring to Buddhism in some ways. Margherita grew up without impositions, but inherited from her parents respect for animals and vegetarianism. He attended high school in Florence, but could not graduate because World War II had broken out in the meantime. In the meantime, he had played basketball and practiced both long jump and high jump, qualifying nationally.

OF THE HAND – He still managed to enroll in physics at the University of Florence. He graduated in 1945, after the end of the war, with a dissertation on astrophysics on Cepheids, or the stars that another astronomer, the American Henrietta Swan Leavitt, had used as “measuring devices.” ‘universe. Meanwhile, in 1943, at the University, he had found, after ten years, a childhood friend, Aldo De Rosa, with whom he married in 1944 and who would have been a great defender. Even in recent years, when she struggled to move and he had Alzheimer’s disease, he was always seen close at hand. After graduating, Margherita worked as an assistant at the Arcetri Observatory itself and taught at the Institute of Optics at the University of Florence. After a brief stint at Ducati, he returned to teaching and, in 1954, obtained free teaching. He immediately began dealing with the disclosure. He moved to the Merate Observatory, near Lecco, which depended on Brera’s history.

THE MYSTERIES OF THE STARS – In 1964 he obtained the chair of astronomy at the Institute of Theoretical Physics of the University of Trieste and, at the same time, the direction of the Astronomical Observatory. It remained at the helm until 1987, transforming it into a center of international astronomical importance. In 1980 he promoted the creation, at the University of Trieste, of an Institute of Astronomy, which later became, in 1985, the Department of Astronomy: he headed it until 1990. In the meantime he continued to write. And even after her retirement in 1992, she did not stop attending meetings and festivals, always ready to tell the mysteries of the stars to the little ones and to be passionate about them.

THE BOOK OF FEDERICO TADDIA – And that’s what he did in an interview book, Because the stars don’t fall on our heads, newly reissued by Editorial Science. He answered Federico Taddia’s questions with irony and clarity. Speaking of black holes, for example, he explained: “At the center of the Milky Way, our galaxy, is a black hole, and I’d like to throw someone in there. But no, Earth, don’t worry – it will never fall there! ” 924,375,700 km around the Sun! “

By Valeria Palumbo


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