12 June 2016

Margherita Hack – astrophysicist

TV personality made science more popular

Photo of Margherita Hack in Rome in 2007
Margherita Hack, pictured in Rome in 2007
Writer and astrophysicist Margherita Hack was born on this day in 1922 in Florence.

She studied stars by analysing the different kinds of radiation they emitted and frequently appeared on television to explain new findings in astronomy and physics.

Hack, whose father, Roberto Hack, was of Swiss origin, graduated in physics from the University of Florence in 1945. She worked at the Brera Astronomical Observatory just outside Milan and then became a professor at the University of Trieste.

She spent more than 20 years as director of the observatory in Trieste, the first woman in Italy to hold such a position. Under her leadership, the observatory became one of the foremost research centres in Italy.

Hack wrote many scientific papers and books, winning awards for her research. Her television appearances helped make science more popular with ordinary people.

Hack was also known for her strong political views and for her criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church, which she believed had an unscientific outlook.

Hack was awarded the honour of Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2012 and the asteroid 8558 Hack, discovered in 1995, was named after her.

Margherita Hack died in Trieste in 2013 at the age of 91.

Travel tip:

The University of Florence can trace its origins back to the 14th century, but the modern University, where Margherita Hack studied Physics, dates back to 1859, when a number of higher studies institutions were grouped together. The resulting Institute was officially recognised as a University by the Italian parliament in 1923.

Photo of the Grand Canal in Trieste
Trieste's own Grand Canal has echoes of Venice
Travel tip:

Trieste, where Margherita Hack worked for many years, is the main city of the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia and lies close to the Slovenian border. It was once the main seaport of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is a fascinating mix of styles, with the seafront, canals and imposing squares reminiscent of Venice and the coffee houses and architecture showing Austrian influence from the era of Hapsburg domination.


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