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Payne Class - Year Three - Miss Cooper and Mrs Tilley

Cecilia Payne-Gaposhkin


English astronomer



“Your reward will be the widening of the horizon as you climb. And if you achieve that reward, you will ask no other.”  Celia Payne


Cecilia Payne was an incredible woman who faced the challenge of being discriminated against due to being a woman in an all male field. Her Ph.D thesis in astronomy has been described by the distinguished astronomer Otto Struve as ‘the most brilliant Ph.D thesis ever written in astronomy’ .


Born in Wendover (England) on May 10th 1900 to a well educated family, Cecilia had a good start in life. Her father died when she was only four, however her mother saw that Cecilia was a talented child and enrolled her in St Paul’s School for Girls and from there she joined Newman College at Cambridge University on a scholarship. Although she completed the same work as all of her male peers, she was not granted her degree in Science, (in fact Cambridge only started allowing women to gain a degree in 1948), and decided to leave England and attend Harvard University in America.


It was here that she gained her Ph.D, which looked at the composition of the stars. She discovered that the stars and our sun are made up of mostly hydrogen and helium. Unfortunately at the time, she was dissuaded from publishing her work as credited scientist Henry Russell stated ‘it was clearly impossible’.


Cecilia continued her work in astronomy completing research, and lecturing and advising students, but she was only referred to as a technical assistant rather than Professor like her male counterparts. It was only in 1956 that she was given the title of Professor, (the first in Harvard), and made the Chair of the department.


Cecilia Payne is the true embodiment of our school values ASPIRE (Aspiration, Social Justice, Perseverance, Inspiration, Respect, Equality) and I hope she will inspire her class to reach for the stars that she found so fascinating. 


Class Teacher - Miss Cooper

Learning Support Assistants - Miss Short and Ms Aldhous


PE is on Monday (outdoor) and Wednesday (indoor)

Outdoor Learning is on Monday


Class Email: payne@springmeadow.essex.sch.uk