Margherita Hack

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Margherita Hack
Margherita Hack in 2006
Born (1922-06-12)12 June 1922
Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Died 29 June 2013(2013-06-29) (aged 91)
Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Residence Italy
Nationality Italian
Fields Astrophysicist
Popular Science Writer
Institutions University of Trieste
Alma mater University of Florence
Notable awards Targa Giuseppe Piazzi (1994)
Premio Internazionale Cortina Ulisse (1995)

Margherita Hack, Dame Grand Cross OMRI (Italian: [marɡeˈriːta ˈ(h)akk]; 12 June 1922 – 29 June 2013) was an Italian astrophysicist and popular science writer. The asteroid 8558 Hack, discovered in 1995, was named in her honour.


Born in Florence, her father was Roberto Hack, a bookkeeper of Swiss origin and Protestant religion. Her mother, Maria Luisa Poggesi, from Tuscany, was of Catholic religion, graduate at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze and miniaturist at the Uffizi Gallery.

Both parents had left their religion of provenance to join the Italian Theosophical Society, for which Roberto Hack was secretary for a certain period under the chairmanship of the countess Gamberini-Cavallini.[1][2]

Margherita Hack, after attending (without taking exams because of the outbreak of World War II) the Liceo Classico "Galileo Galilei" in Florence, graduated in physics from the University of Florence in 1945 with test score of 101/110[citation needed], with a thesis in astrophysics on Cepheid variables, after studies made in the Arcetri Observatory at those times under the direction of Giorgio Abetti, that was for her a model of scientist, teacher and scientific research centre administrator.[3]

In her youth, in addition to basketball, she practiced with success athletics, in which obtained victories in the long jump and the high jump at university championships, named Littoriali under the fascist regime.[4][5]

On 19 February 1944 married with religious ceremony, in the church of San Leonardo in Arcetri, Aldo De Rosa, one of her playmates when they were kids.[6]

In Italy, she was specially known for her anti-religious views and her continual criticism of the Catholic Church and of its hierarchy and institutions.[citation needed]

She was a vegetarian and has written a book explaining this choice entitled Perché sono vegetariana (Why I Am A Vegetarian).

Hack died in Trieste on 29 June 2013 at 04:30 at Cattinara hospital, after being hospitalized for a week for heart problems, from which she suffered from about two years.[7][8] She had refused to have heart surgery.[9]

She left to the city of Trieste her personal library containing 24000 books on astronomy.

Scientific activity[edit]

She was full professor of astronomy at the University of Trieste from 1964 to 1° November 1992, when she was placed "out of role" for seniority.[10] She has been the first Italian woman to administrate the Trieste Astronomical Observatory from 1964 to 1987,[11] bringing it to international fame.[12]

Member of the most prestigious physics and astronomy associations,[13] Margherita Hack was also director of the Astronomy Department at the University of Trieste from 1985 to 1991 and from 1994 to 1997. She was a member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (national member in the class of mathematical physics and natural sciences; second category: astronomy, geodesic, geophysics and applications; section A: astronomy and applications).[14] She worked at many American and European observatories and was for long time member of working groups of ESA and NASA.[15] In Italy, with an intensive promotion work, she obtained the growth of activity of the astronomical community with access to several satellites, reaching a notoriety of international level.[12]

She has published several original papers in international journals and several books both of pupular science and university level. In 1994 she was awarded with the Targa Giuseppe Piazzi for the scientific research, and in 1995 with the Cortina Ulisse Prize for scientific dissemination.

In 1978 Margherita Hack founded the bimonthly magazine L'Astronomia whose first issue came out in November 1979;[10] later, together with Corrado Lamberti, she directed the magazine of popular science and astronomy culture Le Stelle.[16]

Social and political activity[edit]

Margherita Hack on a UAAR conference in 2007

Hack was also known for its activities not strictly scientific, especially in the social and political fields.

She was an atheist and she did not believe in any religion or form of supernaturalism.[17] She also considered that ethics does not derive from religion, but from "principles of conscience" that allow anyone to have a secular view of life, respectful of other people's individuality and freedom.[17]

Hostile to any form of superstition, including pseudoscience, she was a scientific guarantor of CICAP since 1989 and an honorary president of the Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR).[18] In 2005 she joined Luca Coscioni Association for the freedom of scientific research. She was a member of the Transnational Radical Party.[19]

She stood for Italian regional elections of 2005 in Lombardy in the list of the Party of Italian Communists obtaining 5,364 votes in the province of Milan.[20] After the election, she gave her seat to Bebo Storti.

She sided again with the Party of Italian Communists in the 2006 Italian general election. She was nominated for several districts of the Chamber of Deputies, but she decided to give the seat up to devote himself to astronomy.

On 22 October 2008, during a student demonstration in Piazza della Signoria in Florence, she gave a lecture on astrophysics touching on the experiments carried out at the CERN about the Higgs boson, after a discussion against the law 133/08 (which was the law-decree 112, called "Tremonti decree").

Awards and decorations[edit]

ITA OMRI 2001 GC BAR.svg Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic – awarded on 28 May 2012[21]
BenemeritiCultura1.png Gold Medal of the Italian Order of Merit for Culture and Art – awarded on 27 May 1998[22]


  1. ^ Teosofia in Italia
  2. ^ Lo sguardo dell’astrofisica
  3. ^ Hack, Margherita (2005). Idee per diventare Astrofisico - Osservare le stelle per spiegare l'Universo. Zanichelli. p. 150. 
  4. ^ L'astrofisica Hack, stella dei "Littoriali" del fascismo
  5. ^ Corriere della Sera, «Giurai al regime, volevo la medaglia vinta in atletica» Margherita Hack
  6. ^, Margherita Hack, la voglia di vivere diecimila anni
  7. ^ "Morta l'astrofisica Margherita Hack". Rai News 24. 29 June 2013. Retrieved 29 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Margherita Hack
  9. ^ Margherita Hack: «Sono malata ma non mi opero. Come va, va»
  10. ^ a b Hack, Margherita (2000). L'amica delle stelle. Storia di una vita. Rizzoli. p. 293. ISBN 9788817258708. 
  11. ^ "Grandi maestre/Grandi allieve - Margherita Hack e Chiara Daraio". Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Hack, Margherita". Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  13. ^ International Astronomical Union, European Physical Society, Società astronomica italiana, Italian Physical Society
  14. ^ Yearbook 2014 on the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei site
  15. ^ Conference: L'ASTRONOMIA ALLE SOGLIE DEL TERZO MILLENNIO, Circolo Astrofili Talmassons
  16. ^ Editions archive of "Le Stelle"
  17. ^ a b Ingerenza del Vaticano di Margherita Hack
  18. ^ I Presidenti onorari dell'UAAR
  19. ^ Pagina di Margherita Hack sul sito web del Partito Radicale Transnazionale (
  20. ^ Risultati elettorali a Milano
  21. ^ "Presidential Awards". Quirinal Palace. Retrieved 29 June 2013. 
  22. ^ "Presidential Awards". Quirinal Palace. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 

External links[edit]