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Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin


Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was the most esteemed female

astronomer of her time, and is most well known for discovering

in that the Sun is comprised of hydrogen and helium. Prior to

her discovery, scientists believed the Sun had a similar

composition to the Earth. Cecilia’s finding was doubted at first,

but she was proven correct. She was the first woman appointed

to full professor at Harvard and the first woman Chairman of a

Department that was not specifically reserved for a woman.



May 10, 1900- Wendover, England

December 7, 1979- Cambridge, MA



Sergei Gaposchkin- March 1934- Lexington, MA


3 - Edward, Katherine and Peter.

Places Lived:

England and Lexington, MA

Connection to Lexington:

Lived in Lexington for more than 3 decades while working at Harvard, and raised her family here.


Book Titles:



Authored by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: 

The Stars of High Luminosity (1930) 

Variable Stars (1938) 

Variable Stars and Galactic Structure (1954) 

Introduction to Astronomy (1954) 

The Galactic Novae (1957)

Cambridge University, Radcliffe College (which later became part of Harvard University). Cecilia was the first woman to earn her PhD in Physics from Radcliffe.

Astronomer, Writer, Professor- Harvard University


Link to page in Notable American Women:  

P.504 in 2004 edition

Inclusion in the Lexington
Historical Society Exhibit?  


Additional Info:

The Woman Who Explained The Stars, Book review by Giuseppina Fabbiano about a biography of Cecilia’s life.

Preliminary Sketch
- Meredith Bergmann
Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin
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