Dr. Cecilia Payne, Astronomer, Professor and Musician: Madeline’s Monthly Musical Tips Blog/Article for July 2021 

Our blog and Radio Show features Cecilia Payne, astronomer, professor and musician.

Many of the world’s astronomers, medical doctors, biologists, chemists, scientists, mathematicians, engineers, writers, teachers, and others have studied and played musical instruments since they were children. These eminent individuals have integrated music into their thinking process.

Also included is an article on keeping your child’s school skills current during the summer and an article on the importance of studying a musical instrument for children to develop their brains.

Our article of the month is “The Importance of Giving” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.

Radio Show Feature Question for July 2021: How did Classical music play a part of Dr. Cecilia Payne’s life as an astronomer, professor, and musician and which musical instrument did she play?



Early years:  

Cecilia Helena Payne was born on May 10, 1900 to Emma Leonora Helena née Pertz Payne and Edward John Payne in Wendover, England, UK. She was the oldest of their three children. Her father, Edward John Payne was a talented musician, fellow of Oxford University, author of major histories, and later became a barrister and judge. Her mother, Emma Payne, was a skilled artist whose family was “academically accomplished.”

Cecilia remembers her father “filling their home with music and fun. He gave her a love of music, playing scales to her from age two so she developed perfect pitch.” When she was 4 years old her father died . Her mother “raised her three young children alone and made sure they were well educated.” (“Her son grew up to become an archeologist and her other daughter an architect.”)

Cecilia at the age of 6 attended “a small girls’ school across the street from her home in Wendover.” The school “was run by Miss Elizabeth Edwards.” She “told her classes that women were the stronger sex. Miss Edwards ran the school with military-style discipline. Rather than walk anywhere, the girls marched. Every day began with a hymn or a patriotic song.”

At Miss Edwards school she “learned to read and became an avid reader. There were frequent exercises in mental arithmetic. Miss Edwards required her girls to learn lengthy poems by heart.”

Cecilia said “this helped her later scientific work because it developed her memory to a very high level.”

She learned at Miss Edwards school, basic Latin and to speak French and German. “She had studied geometry, could do algebra up to the level of quadratic equations, and had been taught how to use a chemical balance. At home she became a skilled pianist.”

Cecilia decided at the age of eight to become a scientist after recognizing a plant “from her mother’s description of it- the bee orchid.”

Cecilia said, “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’.”  (Cecilia Payne An Autobiography and Other Recollections, published 1984)

Awful High School:

Cecilia’s family when she was 12, moved to London where “she attended St. Mary’s College”. She was “accustomed to the freedom of living in a small town with plenty of space and nearby fields and hills.” She disliked “the big, smoky city.” At this school there was no science, and no German taught as “the school believed there was a conflict between science and religion and preferred religion” At home, she worked through “a botany text in French and German, which she translated into English; and Isaac Newton’s masterpiece: Principia. Later she found Swedenborg’s Chemistry, Physics, Philosophy and Thomas Huxley’s Collected Essays.”

On her own she also studied “calculus and coordinate geometry”. St. Mary’s “asked her to leave before her seventeenth birthday.” They said, “they could do no more for her.”

Senior High School Years at St. Paul’s:

At St Paul’s Girls’ School in London “she was positively encouraged to love science and was taught music by the famous composer Gustav Holst. He recognized her “as a brilliant musician” encouraging her “to make music her life’s work.”

“She played in the school’s orchestra and Holst taught her to conduct. He urged Cecilia to become a musician, but her heart was set on becoming a scientist.”


After high school Celia wanted “to study science at the University of Cambridge.” She did not have the funds to do this, so she applied for a full scholarship to cover all her expenses. At Cambridge’s Newnham College she began her studies in September 1919 in Botany and also studied physics. “Ernest Rutherford was in charge of the Cavendish Laboratory and Payne wanted to attend the great man’s lectures.”

In botany “the renowned Agnes Arber tutored her.” At this point, it occurred to Cecilia  “ that she was more interested in the physical sciences.”

While she worked “in the Cavendish Laboratory, she came into contact with Nobel Prize winners, J. J. Thomson , and Rutherford. The lectures she attended on the quantized Bohr atom were given by Niels Bohr”.

At night she was unable to sleep “after attending a lecture by Arthur Eddington on the General Theory of Relativity.” She was filled with excitement “ about its meaning , ramifications, and how it had changed her perception of the world.”

She majored in physics and attended “astronomy lectures” pouring “over astronomy books and making some astronomical observations. She approached Eddington, who was happy to give her research work to carry out on an informal basis. This led to her writing a paper on the proper motion of stars, published by the Royal Astronomical Society. While carrying out this work, she learned never to be ashamed of admitting to not understanding something.”

Cecilia Payne, “An admission of ignorance may well be a step to a new discovery.”

“An Autobiography and Other Recollections, published 1984.”

“She spent many days and nights working on astronomy projects. She left Cambridge with a second class honors degree rather than a first. The degree was not awarded officially – it was only in 1947 that the University of Cambridge began awarding degrees to women.”

“After learning that the only career option open to her in her own country was teaching in girls’ schools, she decided to go to America to study for a doctorate and become an astronomer.”

Cambridge, England to Cambridge, Massachusetts

At the age of 23 in 1923, Cecilia Payne traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts.  “Financed by a Harvard Observatory fellowship for women, she affiliated with Radcliffe College, a women’s college that is now part of Harvard University. She lived in a shared room in Radcliffe’s graduate dormitory.”

Harvard Observatory’s director, Harold Shapley, “was her doctoral supervisor.”  She “first met him in London where heard his lecture on ‘The Universe.’ “

“Shapley soon introduced Payne to her external Ph.D. advisor, the renowned astronomer Henry Norris Russell of Princeton University. Russell had been Shapley’s doctoral supervisor and the two remained close to one another scientifically.”

“Payne soon realized that Russell’s influence on American astronomy was so powerful that to get on the wrong side of him would be professional suicide. If Russell did not approve of a paper, it would not be published.”

Cecilia Payne, “His word could make or break a young scientist. It was my good fortune to receive the stamp of approval in the beginning, though he vetoed some of my cherished ideas.” (Cecilia Payne, “An Autobiography and Other Recollections”, published in1984.)

“Shapley assigned Payne to work at the desk once occupied by the great Henrietta Leavitt.”

Cecilia Payne, “I heard tell that Miss Leavitt’s lamp was still to be seen burning in the night, that her spirit still haunted the plate stacks. I suspect that some credulous soul (and there were such in those days) had seen me from afar, burning the midnight oil.”

Cecilia Payne’s Discovery: “What are Stars made of?”

“A Remarkable Doctoral Thesis. It took two years for Payne to be awarded a Ph.D. for one of the most remarkable theses ever written by an astronomy student.”

Cecilia Payne, “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.”

Henry Norris Russell Prize Lecture, 1977

“Two years of unremitting effort, Payne built a temperature scale for stars versus their absorption intensities allowing her to calculate the abundances of chemical elements. She was amazed when she discovered:

.   “Regardless of spectral type, stars all had similar compositions.”

  • “The abundances of hydrogen and helium in all stars were enormous, much greater than all the other elements combined.”

Cecilia Payne, “The fact that so many stars have identical spectra is in itself a fact suggesting uniformity of composition; and the success of the theory of thermal ionization in predicting the spectral changes that occur from class to class is a further indication in the same direction.”

Stellar Atmospheres, 1925

“Unfortunately, her supervisor Shapley and the highly influential Russell said it was impossible that hydrogen and helium could dwarf the presence of all the other elements and advised her not to claim this in her Ph.D. thesis. Since Russell’s word was law, she followed his advice. Her thesis showed the sun was almost entirely hydrogen and helium, but she spent her time explaining why this could not be right rather than exploring the implications. Nevertheless, Shapley had her thesis printed as a book, Stellar Atmospheres, and it was widely-praised. Russell recommended Payne be awarded a National Research Fellowship.”

“In the Physical Review, John Quincy Stewart, one of Russell’s colleagues, described Stellar Atmospheres as:  “…worthy of a place in every physical, as in every astronomical library.”

“To Russell, the idea that stars are made of hydrogen, helium, and very little else seemed bizarre. Payne’s result had been obtained using a method nobody had used before. For astronomers to come to terms with such an idea required a major paradigm shift, a complete change in the way they thought of stars and the universe itself.”

“By 1929, Russell’s own work had validated Payne’s results.”

Henry Norris Russell, “The most important previous determination of the abundance of the elements by astrophysical means is that by Miss Payne, who determined… the relative abundance of eighteen of the most important elements. [Comparing our results gives] a very gratifying agreement, especially when it is considered Miss Payne’s results were determined by a different theoretical method, with instruments of a quite different type… and even on different bodies.”

  (On the Composition of the Sun’s Atmosphere, 1929.)

“This was the turning point. Astronomers began building their theories around the fact that stars are mainly hydrogen. Today we know that 91.00% of the atoms in the sun are hydrogen and 8.87% are helium. The atoms of other elements make up only 0.13%. “

Otto Struve, Director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatories said of Payne’s work in Astronomy of the 20th Century: “It is undoubtedly the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy.”

Astronomer and Professor:

“After graduating with a doctorate, Payne continued working at the Harvard Observatory studying stars of high luminosity and variable stars: she and her assistants made over three million observations. She wrote about this work in her 1930 book Stars of High Luminosity and her 1954 book Variable Stars and Galactic Structure.”

At Harvard In 1956, “she was the first woman to be appointed full professor and the first to chair a department.” In 1966 she retired, “but continued to carry out research work.”

Awards and Prizes:

Elected to American Astronomical Society (1924)

Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy (1934)
Elected to American Philosophical Society (1936)
Radcliffe College Award of Merit (1952)
Rittenhouse Medal of the Franklin Institute (1961)
Henry Norris Russell Prize (1976)

In 1931, Cecilia Payne “became an American citizen”. She met in 1933 Sergei Gaposchkin, Russian astrophysicist in Germany.  They communicated in German as they were both fluent in it..

In 1934 they were married and made their home in Lexington, Massachusetts. They worked on most of their research together. “They had three children: Katherine and Peter became astronomers; Edward became a neurosurgeon.”

She and her family were members of the First Unitarian Church and on Sunday’s she “taught Sunday school.

Cecilia Payne was an astronomer, professor, musician, wife, and mother of three children. On December 7, 1979, Dr. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin died at the age of 79 in her sleep in Cambridge, Massachusetts.



The Importance of Giving by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.

One of my most cherished books is Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Einstein had a different learning style and never really blossomed academically until he picked up a violin and began playing as a little boy. He often attributed his clarity of thought and creativity to the practice of playing music (by engaging both hemispheres of the brain).

I also had a different learning style than most. As a little girl, I struggled in the classroom. When I picked up the violin, it was as if the shackles that had been holding my mind’s potential hostage started to release.

Rusty Nail story:



The book was a great reminder of two things:

  1.   I am not alone. Other people have struggled with the same issues I face and gone on to do great things.
  2.   Sometimes the keys to your success aren’t always obvious.

While we were cleaning out our home this spring, I decided to give this book to a deserving young girl or boy with the hope that it may encourage them to study science, or at the very least, embrace whatever struggle they may be enduring.

There is a certain magic that you feel when you give some of what you have and/or some of who you are to brighten someone’s day.

This is the true gift of giving.

While we were doing our spring cleaning I found my beloved grandmother’s handmade crocheted blankets. She enjoyed making these blankets while unwinding after a long day at work.

As I reached adulthood, I began to realize the relaxation that happens when I wrap Grandma’s beautiful blanket around me and feel her comforting presence surround me. To share her handmade blankets with my children is a wonderful gift.

When you are doing your spring cleaning or packing to move to a new house what kind of hidden treasures will you find to share with others?

Perhaps you have treasured books, DVDs, CDs, clothes, shoes, musical instruments or other household goods to share.

Maybe you will find a lost heirloom like my Grandma’s handmade blanket , a beautiful bowl, a silver tray or other things from your grandparents and great grandparents that you can share with other family members.

Giving the gift of music:

While doing our spring cleaning I decided to give the gift of music to several of my former students, teachers, and friends who I knew would enjoy them. I shared Concerts and masterclasses on videos and DVDs of the greatest classical musicians Heifetz, Casals , and others playing the violin , viola, or cello. Also, I shared magazines and books about the great artists work and gave instruments in my collection to several students, teachers, friends, and local music schools.

So what gifts will you share with others?

What seeds of growth will you plant in others?

We also donated to Good Will and Disabled American Veterans my books on teaching fractions and decimals to students in grades K-5, the fun way, through musical rhythm. (Musical Notes On Math) and “The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music.”

If my book helps a few children to understand fractions and decimals it will be worth it!

What gifts will you share with others?

Having traveled the world playing concerts and teaching classes, my husband and I have purchased coffee mugs representing the wonderful places we have traveled. These mugs  have scenes of the cities we visited. We decided to gift many of these mugs so others could enjoy them.

What gifts will you share with others?

What seeds of growth will you plant in others by giving that special gift?

Will one of your gifts help others take that first step for their future?If you need a virtual speaker contact Madeline at: [email protected]


How to keep your child’s school skills current during the summer:

1) This summer find out what programs your library has for your child. Share with your child the joys of reading in your home every evening.

2) Are you planning to take your child on vacation this summer? How about having a journal for your child to write in about their vacation? Ask them what they learned about each place they visited and what they enjoyed most about each place.

3) Ask your child to help you cook dinner for the family by having them help you with a recipe. They will be reading and assisting in measuring out ingredients, which will help them in both math and science.

4) The local science and history museums offer classes for children. Find one that will be most interesting to your child.

5) To teach your child the fun way to understand fractions and decimals through the rhythm of music, order a copy of “Musical Notes On Math” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. through your local Good Will or Disabled American Veterans stores (donated to Virginia DAV and Good Will stores) or purchase as an ebook from  Amazon.com (Kindle)


5a) Have your child help you make up Flash Cards in bright colors and letters to learn multiplication tables and vocabulary words.


 “Neuroscientists’ Research Reinforces Music’s Impact On The Developing Brain” (Feb. 3, 2020) by Emily Gersema. 

“USC Dornsife’s Assal Habibi advances her studies into how musical training boosts childhood brain development.”

“Assal Habibi has done extensive research on how musical training is beneficial for brain development. Her latest study focuses on children who are learning music and speak more than one language, as compared to children who know just one language.”

“Children can learn communication, empathy, focus and decision-making skills just as well at a piano bench as they can on the soccer field or in the chemistry laboratory, according to Assal Habibi, a neuroscientist and psychologist at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’  Brain and Creativity Institute.”

“Habibi, who began learning classical piano as a 5-year-old in Tehran, Iran, has spent the last seven years studying the effects of music on the brain in a group of children enrolled in the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles music education program. So far, the research indicates that musical training is beneficial for children’s brains, strengthening networks that process sound, language and communication as well as engaging areas that are responsible for decision-making, focusing attention and inhibiting impulses.”

Habibi said, “[Music training] does have benefits across the board, and we see changes in their brain structure and function that are different from children who do not have any training.”



The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. is available in book form, and newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook:


 “Musical Notes On Math” by Dr. Madeline Frank teaches your child fractions and decimals, the fun easy way, through the rhythm of music, Winner of the Parent To Parent Adding Wisdom Award is available in book form, newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook.:


 Madeline’s Midnight Melodies- Music From around the World”. This CD complements her books with a blend of dance music, gigues, tangos, ballet and favorites including “Danny Boy”, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”, Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” and others. “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” is music to relax by and to move by for music therapy.  “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” CD is now available for purchase by downloading a song, downloading the album, or by CD by clicking below:

Download Your Copy Today!  Amazon | iTunes |

Dr. Madeline Frank’s book “Leadership on a Shoestring Budget” is available through amazon. To order your copy  as an e-book   click  on see all formats (kindle):


Wishing you and your family a happy and safe July 4th holiday from your Non-Invasive Medicine…Music Expert, Madeline

For over 30 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through Classical music. Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award-winning teacher, author, researcher, speaker, conductor, and concert artist. She has discovered a scientific link between studying musical instruments and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2021 Madeline Frank.