Margherita Hack was an Italian astrophysicist and scientific disseminator. On 27 May 1998, she was awarded by Gold Medal of the Italian Order of Merit for Culture and Art and On 28 May 2012, she was awarded by Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. On 29 June 2013, at the age of 91, she died at Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. The asteroid 8558 Hack, discovered in 1995, was named in her honour.



NameMargherita Hack
NicknameNot known
Date of Birth12 June 1922
Age99 years old (as in april 2021)
Birth PlaceFlorence, Tuscany, Italy
HometownFlorence, Tuscany, Italy
MotherMaria Luisa
FatherRoberto Hack
Marital StatusMarried
HusbandAldo De Rosa
SchoolNot known
CollegeUniversity of Florence
Educational QualificationGraduate
ProfessionProfessor, astrophysicist
Death29 June 2013 (aged 91)
NationalityItalian

Early Life

She was born on 12 June 1922 in Florence, Tuscany, Italy. Her father’s name is Roberto Hack who was a Florentine bookkeeper of Protestant Swiss origin. Her mother’s name is Maria Luisa Poggesi, a Catholic from Tuscany, was a graduate of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze and a miniaturist at the Uffizi Gallery.

Margherita attended the Liceo Classico “Galileo Galilei in Florence, however, the outbreak of the World War 2 didn’t let her appear for the exams. In 1945, she graduated in physics from the University of Florence. Her test score was so good she got 101/110. her thesis in astrophysics was on Cepheid variables, based on her studies in the Arcetri Observatory, then under the direction of Giorgio Abetti.

She considered Abetti her model for a scientist, teacher, and scientific research centre administrator.

At a young age, she was an athlete, she used to play basketball. She played basketball and competed in track and field during the National University Contests, called the Littoriali under Mussolini’s fascist regime, where she won the long jump and the high jump events.

She was a professor of astronomy at the University of Trieste from 1964 to the 1st of November 1992. Margherita Hack married Aldo De Rosa, one of Hack’s childhood playmates, on 19th February 1944, in the church of San Leonardo in Arcetri.

She likes to write a book. Her two books are famous. She wrote a book explaining this choice entitled Perché sono vegetariana (Why I Am A Vegetarian) and also wrote a book entitled La mia vita in bicicletta (My life on a bicycle).

On 29 June 2013 at 4:30 am at Cattinara Hospital in Trieste, she died because of a heart problem. She had been hospitalized for a week for heart problems. She had refused to have heart surgery. One year later her husband Aldo De Rosa, died on 26 September 2014, due to complications of Alzheimer disease.

Hack left her library, containing 24,000 books on astronomy, to the city of Trieste.

On 12 June 2021, Google celebrated her with Google Doodle on her 99th birthday.

Career

She was professionally a professor of astronomy at the University of Trieste from 1964 to the 1st of November 1992. Apart from science, she was also interested in participating in social and political activities.  She has been the first Italian woman to administrate the Trieste Astronomical Observatory from 1964 to 1987.

She was was director of the Astronomy Department at the University of Trieste from 1985 to 1991 and from 1994 to 1997 and also a member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (national member in the class of mathematical physics and natural sciences; second category: astronomy, geodesic, geophysics and applications; section A: astronomy and applications).

She was a long time member of working groups of ESA and NASA. In Italy, with intensive promotion work, she obtained the growth of activity of the astronomical community with access to several satellites, reaching notoriety of international level.

In her life journey, she has published several original papers in international journals and several books. In 1978, Margherita Hack founded the bimonthly magazine L’Astronomia whose first issue came out in November 1979.

She was a scientific guarantor of CICAP since 1989 and an honorary president of the Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR). In 2005, she joined the Luca Coscioni Association for the freedom of scientific research. She has been a member of the Transnational Radical Party.

In 2005,  the first time she stood for Italian regional elections.  in Lombardy in the list of the Party of Italian Communists obtaining 5,364 votes in the province of Milan. After the election, she gave her seat to Bebo Storti. She sided again with the Party of Italian Communists in the 2006 Italian general election. She was nominated for several districts of the Chamber of Deputies, but she decided to give the seat up to devote herself to astronomy.

On 22 October 2008, during a student demonstration in Piazza Della Signoria in Florence, Hack gave a lecture on astrophysics touching on the experiments carried out at the CERN about the Higgs boson, after a discussion against the law 133/08 (which previously was the law-decree 112, called “Tremonti decree”). On the 21st of January 2009, she became a candidate on the Anti-capitalist List for the European Elections of June. She wasn’t elected because the list didn’t reach the 4% threshold. In November 2009, through an open letter on the MicroMega magazine, she criticized the Italian President of the Council, Silvio Berlusconi, on the matter of legal actions in which he was involved and his alleged attempt to elude them.

During the regional elections of 2010, Hack was running with the Federazione della Sinistra and she was elected in the Rome district with over 7000 votes. During the first Council meeting, she resigned leaving the seat to the other list’s candidates. In October 2012 she declared her endorsement for Nichi Vendola during the left-wing primary elections, whereas during the following ballot she sided for Matteo Renzi against Pierluigi Bersani.

In April 2013, Hack joined the “Emma Bonino committee” together with other eminent Italian figures, such as Renzo Arbore, Toni Garrani, Anna Fendi, Alessandro Pace, Stefano Disegni to promote Emma Bonino’s candidacy as Italian President of the Republic.

Death

On 29 June 2013 at 4:30 am at Cattinara Hospital in Trieste, she died because of a heart problem. She had been hospitalized for a week for heart problems. She had refused to have heart surgery.

Awards

• 1994 – awarded with the Targa Giuseppe Piazzi
• 1995 – awarded with the Cortina Ulisse Prize for scientific dissemination.
• 1998 – awarded with the Gold Medal of the Italian Order of Merit for Culture and Art.
• 2012 – awarded with the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

Previous Post Next Post