New Delhi: Innate empathy, science, and activism; are the three coordinates that qualify the biography of Margherita Hack. Google paid tribute to Italian astrophysicist Margherita Hack with an animated doodle today, on her 99th birthday. It shows Hack looking into her telescope while sitting on a chair. The asteroid 8558 Hack can be seen rotating in the animated doodle. Hack is credited to have discovered asteroid 8558 Hack in 1995 which was named in her honor.
Margherita Hack was born in Florence 99 years ago from parents of mixed religions, her mother was Catholic, and her father was Protestant. Born in Florence in 1922, Margherita graduated in Physics at the University of Florence, at just twenty-three, with a thesis on astrophysics done at the Arcetri Observatory on Cepheids, a particular type of star, called "variables", due to the periodic variation of their brightness. Thanks to the study of this particular category of stars, we have succeeded in calculating many distances between stars and galaxies, with a method still today, among the most accurate possible.
Her skills as a researcher opened up the academic path for her and in 1964 she became a professor of astronomy at the University of Trieste, a chair she held until 1992 when she was placed out of office due to seniority. She was also director of the Trieste Astronomical Observatory which, under her direction, became a world center of excellence. She was also a member of the Accademia dei Lincei and a member of the research team of NASA and ESA (the European NASA).
Praised by Umberto Veronesi, who defined her as the "icon of free thought and nonconformity", Hack was not only a great scientist, but with great talent contributed to the public debate on major issues in current affairs. That’s not all! Since the late '70s, she has also dedicated herself to the publication of scientific journals of immeasurable value: "L'Astronomia" and "Le Stelle", above all.
In addition to the scientific one, Margherita is known for her civil and political passion, which she cultivated in the area of the left, secularism, and civil rights. On her 90th birthday, the Italian government honored Hack with its highest award - the title of Dama di Gran Croce.
Margherita Hack died on June 29, 2013, of heart complications; rests in the S. Anna cemetery in Trieste next to her husband Aldo.