“All the matter we are made of was built by the stars, all the elements from hydrogen to uranium have been made in nuclear reactions that occur in supernovae, that is those stars, much bigger than the Sun, which at the end of their existence explode and scatter into space the result of all the nuclear reactions occurred in them. So we are truly children of the stars”
I felt an enormous admiration for her and, as it always happens when a special person passes away, I have today the feeling that our little world is a somehow poorer.
She was called Margherita Hack and she was an astrophysicist who explained her research on the stars in plain language for the public and who championed civil rights in her native Italy.
She was 91 years old.
Margherita Hack headed the observatory in Trieste, the first woman to hold that post, from 1964 to 1987, and was a popular and frequent commentator in media about discoveries in astronomy and physics.
An atheist who decried Vatican influence on Italian politicians, Hack helped fight a successful battle to legalize abortion in Italy. She unsuccessfully lobbied for the right to euthanasia and also championed gay rights.
Hack, an optimist with a cheerful disposition, studied the heavens in the firm belief there was no after-life.
“I have no fear of death,” Hack once said in a TV interview. “While we are here, death isn’t with us.”
“When there is death, I won’t be here,” she said.
Among the many comments about her passing was one from an admirer who wrote that Hack was “so great and nice that God will pretend not to exist so as not to upset her,”
She liked to joke that the “first and last” time she was in a church was for her marriage to fellow native Florentine Aldo De Rosa, in 1944. She agreed to a church ceremony only because the groom’s parents were very religious. Hack dressed simply in life, including for her own wedding, when she wore an overcoat-turned-inside out for a bridal gown. She and her widower, 93, had no children.
Goodbye, Margherita, lady of stars !