Margherita Hack was born in Florence, Italy, to an Italian Cathlic mother and Swiss Protestant father. She enrolled at the University of Florence to study literature but, after one class, switched to physics. A gifted student athlete, she won national championships in track. She graduated in 1945 and did further study at the Arcetri Observatory. In 1944, she married Aldo De Rosa, joking after she became known for her anti-religious views that the wedding ceremony marked the first and last time she was ever in church. By the 1950s, she was working as an astronomer at Florence's astronomical observatory. In 1964, she became the first female full professor of astronomy at the University of Trieste and the first woman to direct the Trieste Astronomical Observatory. Under her leadership, it became one of the foremost research centers in Italy. She contributed to the fields of stellar spectroscopy and radio astronomy, and wrote more than 200 scientific papers as well as numerous books. Margherita Hack also was a popular science writer and a frequent commentator in the Italian media, explaining astronomical research and physics in plain language. She was active in left-wing politics, and championed women's rights and gay rights. Asteroid 8558 Hack was named after her.