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Liisi Oterma, born in Turku, Finland on January 6, 1915, was the first woman to get a PhD in astronomy in Finland.

Oterma studied mathematics and astronomy at the University of Turku, and became the assistant of the prominent astronomer Yrjö Väisälä. She worked with him on the search for minor planets. Oterma completed a masters degree in 1938, and from 1941 to 1965 worked as an observer at the university's observatory. In 1955 she got her PhD.

From 1965-1978 Oterma was a professor of the university, and in 1971 succeeded Väisälä as the director of the Tuorla Observatory. She was director of the astronomical-optical research institute at the University of Turku from 1971-1975. And she is credited with the discovery of 54 minor planets, as well as being the discoverer or co-discoverer of three comets.

Oterma is described as quiet and modest and publicity-shy. And astronomy wasn't her only interest. She loved languages and spoke, for example, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Esperanto, Hungarian, English and Arabic. Anders Reiz, a professor at the Copenhagen Observatory, said Oterma was “silent in eleven languages”.

[Source: Wikipedia]


Mona Evans
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