POSTPONED: Donovan Moore - What Stars Are Made of: The Life of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (Corte Madera Store)

Friday, March 20, 2020 - 7:00pm

Please note: This event has been postponed due to concerns for the health and well-being of our community. For updates on this event and for additional event information, please subscribe to our e-newsletter.

It was not easy being a woman of ambition in early twentieth-century England, much less one who wished to be a scientist. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin overcame prodigious obstacles to become a woman of many firsts: the first to receive a PhD in astronomy from Radcliffe College, the first promoted to full professor at Harvard, the first to head a department there. And, in what has been called "the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy," she was the first to describe what stars are made of.

Payne lived in a society that did not know what to make of a determined schoolgirl who wanted to know everything. She was derided in college and refused a degree. As a graduate student, she faced formidable skepticism. Revolutionary ideas rarely enjoy instantaneous acceptance, but the learned men of the astronomical community found hers especially hard to take seriously. Though welcomed at the Harvard College Observatory, she worked for years without recognition or status. Still, she accomplished what every scientist yearns for: discovery. She calculated the atomic composition of stars—only to be told that her conclusions were wrong by the very man who would later show her to be correct.

In What Stars Are Made Of, Donovan Moore brings this remarkable woman to life through extensive archival research, family interviews, and photographs. Moore retraces Payne's steps with visits to cramped observatories and nighttime bicycle rides through the streets of Cambridge, England. The result is a story of devotion and tenacity that speaks powerfully to our own time.

Donovan Moore has written for numerous newspapers and magazines, including the Boston Globe and Rolling Stone, and has worked as a television reporter and producer.

Location: 
51 Tamal Vista Blvd
Corte Madera, CA 94925
What Stars Are Made of: The Life of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin Cover Image
$29.95
ISBN: 9780674237377
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harvard University Press - March 3rd, 2020

The history of science is replete with women getting little notice for their groundbreaking discoveries. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, a tireless innovator who correctly theorized the substance of stars, was one of them.