The astrophysicist Margherita Hack passed away last night at the hospital Cattinara of Trieste, where she was hospitalized for a week. She had her 91st birthday a few days ago, on June 12th.
Hack was famous in the scientific world, but also for her social and political commitment. Hack was the first woman to direct an astronomical observatory in Italy, bringing it to international recognition, she took part in important dissemination activities and made a strong contribution to research for the study and the spectral classification of many different types of stars.
Hack was a member of the Accademia dei Lincei, and the International Union of Astronomers of the Royal Astronomical Society. She also worked for numerous foreign observers, including ESA and NASA and in 1987 was part of the “Culture of the Presidency of the Council.”
She took positions against nuclear power (but in favor of nuclear research), in favor of civil rights for homosexuals, the right to abortion, euthanasia (Englaro case), for embryonic stem cell research supporting the Luca Coscioni Association and the living will. She was honorary president of the Union of Rationalist Agnostics and Atheists and guarantor of the scientific CICAP (Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal). In 2009 she wrote an open letter on Micromega, calling on the then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial and not use the Parliament in order to avoid judgement.
Hack was always consistent with herself and with others, she never denied anyone or anything, her image will be missed by all of us.
On Twitter, a few minutes after the news of her death, the mourning is already considerable. Fabio Nardelli writes: “She Margherita Hack passed away. She will study us from the stars and we will look very very small.’