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Maria Assumpció Català i Poch

Astronomer and mathematician (Barcelona, 14th July 1925- Barcelona, 3rd July 2009)

Maria Assumpció Català i Poch is one of the foremost women scientists on our Barcelona science trail. She was a pioneering Catalan teacher, mathematician and astronomer.

Her great-uncle sparked her curiosity and passion for the universe at a very young age, and she began studying for a maths degree at Barcelona University. At the time this was the only route to studying astronomy. Only five women enrolled and she was the only one to graduate in 1953.

Due to the straitened financial circumstance of the post-civil war period, she had to take on teaching work to pay for her studies.

She was the first woman to receive a PhD in mathematical sciences from the university with her thesis entitled Contribution to the study of the dynamics of cylindrically symmetrical star systems in 1970.

She began her career as an assistant in the astronomy section of the mathematics department at Barcelona University. Here she performed research and taught classes in mathematics and astronomy while she finished her PhD. She combined her scientific research with teaching from 1952 to 1991.

She also worked at the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris and with the special chair in technology at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. She performed systematic observations of sunspots, the calculation of orbits and ellipses for more than thirty years.

This great scientific researcher was also a representative of the International Astronomical Union for fifteen years. Maria Assumpció forged a path in a specialised branch of science that had previously been a male domain. She was a pioneering astronomer and received the Cross of Sant Jordi in 2009.

Did you know that the first telescope named after a woman in Spain bears her name? You can find it at the Montsec Astronomical Observatory.

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