Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

It's the birthday of scientist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin who discovered while still in graduate school that stars are made largely of the two lightest chemical elements – hydrogen and helium; she was born in 1900.

When Celia was eight, she decided to become a scientist. She had been walking in an orchard when she suddenly recognized a plant she had heard her mother describe – the plant that looks like a bumble: the bee orchid. Later she recalled her excitement at seeing the plant the first time:

“For the first time I knew the leaping of the heart, the sudden enlightenment, that were to become my passion… These moments are rare, and they come without warning, on ‘days to be marked with a white stone’.”

And it is Cecelia Page who said these wonderful quotes: “An admission of ignorance may well be a step to a new discovery.”

and then this one (which harkened back to Page's discovery of the bee orchid). “The reward of the young scientist is the emotional thrill of being the first person in the history of the world to see something or understand something.”


As featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

Words inspired by the garden are the sweetest, most beautiful words of all.
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin