Google paid tribute to Italian astrophysicist Margherita Hack in today’s Doodle. June 12 marks Hack’s 99th anniversary. “Today’s Doodle celebrates the 99th birthday of Italian professor, activist, author and astrophysicist Margherita ‘The Lady of the Stars’ Hack,” Google explains. “Thank you for inspiring future generations to aim for the stars! Hack discovered asteroid 8558 Hack, which you can see in the Doodle, and it is named after him. The Doodle has Hack sitting in his chair and looking through his telescope with a cat by his side.
Hack was born on June 12, 1922 in Florence, Italy,. And she became the first female director of the Trieste Astronomical Observatory. She had moved to Trieste in 1964 and received a full scholarship to the city’s university. She was also the first woman to achieve this feat.
Started out as a major in literature in college, but changed her major to physics right after taking a course. Hack’s work at the Trieste Observatory made her famous in the astronomical community and earned her membership in NASA and the European Space Agency. Besides her interest in astrophysics and satellites, Hack was also passionate about civil rights and equality and was a champion of progressive causes and animal welfare.
But Hack wasn’t just about work, not play. She was an athlete in her youth and played basketball and competed in athletics at national college competitions, called Littoriali under the fascist Mussolini regime. She won the long jump and the high jump in these competitions. Hack married his childhood friend Aldo De Rosa on February 19, 1944.
In Italy, Hack was also known for her anti-religious views and criticism of the Catholic Church, its hierarchy and its institutions. She was vegetarian and wrote a book explaining this choice called Perché sono vegetarien (Why I’m vegetarian). And she also wrote a book called La mia vita in bicicletta (My bike life).
Besides these two books, Hack has published dozens of academic articles and has also written several books on astronomy. She also launched two astronomy magazines. Hack received the title of Dama di Gran Croce at the age of 90, it is the highest honor that one can receive from the Italian government. The Star Lady passed away at the age of 91 on June 29, 2013.