Aged 91, last night Prof. Margherita Hack has passed away. Hack has been the first woman to become the Director of an Astronomy Observatory in Italy. I am not sure how well-known she actually is outside Italian borders, but she was definitely one of the most influential scientists in the political and social scene in Italy.
Margherita was a very appreciated popular-science writer, but probably she was known to the general audience mostly for her alternative and unconventional political views. The Italian cult blog "Spinoza.it" today commented: "Margherita Hack died. A Red Giant". Besides the catchword borrowed from astrophysics, the comment refers to Hack's strong left-wing political views. Over the years she was a candidate in regional and national elections with the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and with other movements, like "Democrazia Atea" (Atheist Democracy) that she co-founded in 2011.
Strong opposer of any pseudo-scientific belief and superstition, she joined CICAP, the Italian division of the "European Council of Skeptical Organizations" in 1989. Since 2002, she was Honorary President of the UAAR "Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti" (Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics). In 2005, she joined the Luca Coscioni Association for the freedom and independence of scientific research.