Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary

By Benjamin F. Shearer; Barbara S. Shearer | Go to book overview
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MARGARET JOAN GELLER
(1947- )
Astronomer
Birth December 8, 1947
1970 A.B., University of California, Berkeley
1972 M.A., Princeton University
1974-76 Fellowship, theoretical astrophysics, Center for
Astrophysics
1975 Ph.D., Princeton University
1976-80 Research Associate, Harvard University
1980-83 Assistant Professor, Harvard University
1983 Astrophysicist, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
1988- Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University
1990 MacArthur "Genius" Award; Newcomb-Cleveland Prize,
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Margaret Joan Geller has become one of the most widely respected cosmologists of the late twentieth century. The daughter of a crystallographer, she was born in Ithaca, New York, while her father was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University. He later took a job at Bell Laboratories in Morristown, New York, where Margaret and her younger sister spent their youth. 1 Margaret has cited her father's influence as a vital factor in her career path: "He bought me a lot of toys that especially had to do with geometric things. I used to build solid shapes and play with all kinds of toys that really improved my 3-D perception. . . . I was trained by my father in that regard, whether I was going to become a scientist or not." 2 This ability to visualize the world in three dimensions has been an asset to her work on the large-scale structure of the universe. Margaret developed an acute interest in mathematics as a child and found her elementary school boring. Her parents allowed her to study algebra on her own at home instead of attending school on many occasions.

Margaret learned, even as a young child, that society was not always accepting of a girl's interest in mathematics and science: "I was somewhat aware that there was something funny about being a little girl interested in mathematics. I got messages from my teachers. One in par

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