Assumptio Catalá

Biography of Assumpció Català Spanish professor, mathematician, and astronomer, who dedicated 40 years to teaching, from 1952 to 1991.

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As exciting as teaching was for her, Assumpció Català did not limit herself to transmitting her knowledge in high school and university classrooms.
In addition to teaching classes, she enthusiastically dedicated herself to actively participating in the dissemination of astronomy research.

Childhood of Assumpció Català

Assumpció Català i Poch was born in Barcelona on July 14, 1925.

Her father, Albert Català, worked in the bank. Due to the father’s work, the whole family moved to Montblanc when Assumptió Català was still little.

Assumpció’s mother was named Assumpció Poch. She was a teacher, but stopped working as soon as she got married. She had five children: four girls and a boy.

Assumpció Català i Poch was the oldest of the five siblings.

Assumpció began her studies at Montblanc. But, shortly after her parents returned to Barcelona and Assumpció finished her primary education at the “Sagrado Corazón y María Inmaculada” school in Barcelona.

Mr. Albert Català wanted all her children to have the opportunity to do whatever they wanted. Therefore, as soon as the Civil War ended, Assumpció was able to study for a Baccalaureate at the “Institut Poeta Maragall“.

A brother of the maternal grandfather’s name was Jaume Poch, he was a professor of Geography at the “Normal School of Teachers” and he was passionate about astronomy.

So great was his conviction of the importance of astronomy that, despite the difficult post-war environment, he managed to introduce this subject into teaching studies at the Normal School.

Cathedral Barcelona
Sagrada Familia Cathedral, in Barcelona, ​​by the architect Antoni Gaudí. Credit: Wikipedia

Professor Jaume Poch used to take his great-nephews on excursions to the mountains. There he taught them to position themselves by the cardinal points, to find out the time of day by looking at the shadow of the branches.

When it was getting dark, he showed them the beauty and curiosities of the sky.

When Jaume Boch saw the interest that these games aroused in Assumpció, he began to pose astronomical and philosophical problems for her to solve them. Little by little he transmitted to his great niece his passion for science and the stars.

Assumpció Català at the University of Barcelona

When Assumpció Català began studying Mathematics back in 1948, at the University of Barcelona, ​​there were only five women who were studying this subject.

When she was in the third grade, there were no other women left to study mathematics at the University of Barcelona.

In 1953, Assumpció Català graduated in Mathematics and dedicated herself to the noble task of teaching, following in the footsteps of her two parents and her beloved great-uncle.

Between 1952 and 1970, she worked as a teacher at the Faculty of Sciences and at the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Barcelona. She also worked as a mathematics teacher at the “Instituto Infanta Isabel” in Barcelona.

Solar system
The beauty of this small universe that is the solar system. Credit: web meteorology network

Whether as an assistant, as an adjunct professor or as a teacher, Assumpció Catalá taught the subjects of General Astronomy and Topography, Celestial Mechanics, Spherical Astronomy and Geodesy, Mathematics, Special Mathematics, Mathematics Extension for Chemists and Rational Mechanics.

There is no doubt that she knew how to transmit very well to the young generations, her passion for mathematics and astronomy.

Assumpció Català PhD in Mathematics

Parallel to her work as a teacher, Assumpció Català continued her doctorate preparation studies.

Finally, thanks to her tenacity and perseverance, in 1971 she approved her doctoral thesis. She was the first woman to obtain a doctorate in Mathematics at the University of Barcelona.

From 1971 until the beginning of the 80s, the Polytechnic University of Catalonia could count on her valuable collaboration in the Special Chair of Space Technologies. She taught classes in Astrodynamics and Celestial Mechanics.

Assumpció Català’s professional prestige and extensive knowledge of astronomy and mathematics led her to collaborate with various educational centers:

  • Faculty of Astronomy and Meteorology of the University of Barcelona.
  • Faculty of Physics of the University of Barcelona
  • Cartographic Institute of Catalonia.
  • Astronomy Section of the Barcelona Mathematical Seminar, linked to the Board of Trustees of Alfonso X el Sabio of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC)
  • Henri Poincaré Institute
  • Special Chair of Technology of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.

Her “Astronomy Notes” have been used by generations of astronomers and are still being used today.

The capacity for work and the enormous prestige of Assumpció Català are reflected in the fact that, “despite being a woman” she was a member and held positions in important national and international organizations:

  • At the Catalan Society for the History of Science and Technology.
  • In the Catalan Society of Mathematics.
  • At the Astronomy Teaching Commission of the University of Barcelona
  • In the Spanish Society of Astronomy.
  • In the International Astronomical Union, she was the Spanish representative of Commission 46 for the teaching of astronomy, for 15 years.
  • At the European Astronomical Society.
  • In the Research Group for the History of Sciences of the Millàs Vallicrosa Institute for the History of Arab Science.
  • In the Astronomy Section of the Spanish edition of National Geographic, as scientific advisor, for 12 years.

Activities of Assumpció Català in astronomy

Since 1954, awarded a grant from the CSIC, Assumpció Català began a brilliant career as a researcher in astronomy.

Oort cloud
Artistic image of the Oort cloud, studied by Assumpció Català. Credit: Wikipedia

Among the many works carried out by Assumpció Català, the following can be mentioned:

  • Position astronomy, with calculation and rectification of comet orbits.
  • Collaboration in the discovery of radiation from the Van Allen Belt
  • In the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958), observational astronomy, calculation and rectification of comet orbits and daily observation of spots and bulges. He developed these works at the Observatory of the Chair of Astronomy of the University of Barcelona, ​​in collaboration with the Observatory National Astronomical.
  • Research in the specialty of Arabic Astronomy and Arabic mathematical works, such as the treatise on tangent circles (1968) and Two treatises on the Arabic Archimedes: treatise on tangent circles and the book on triangles.
  • Position astronomy and study of the dynamics of star systems.
  • Eclipses, sunspots, occultation and transit calculations, the dynamics of star systems, and galactic dynamics.
  • Structure of the Oort cloud of comets, at the Meudon Observatory
  • She collaborated in the discovery of radiation from the “Van Allen Belt“.
  • Project of the European Space Agency Selection and determination of positions of stars and planets, commissioned by the European Space Agency.

    Sunspots
    Sunspots were one of the objectives of Assumpció Catalá’s research. Credit: Enigmas of the Universe

Assumpció Català’s work pace was intense. In addition to her classes and her research, she took time to direct eleven bachelor’s theses and seven doctoral theses.

Last years of Assumpció Català

Assumpció Català continued working at the University of Barcelona, ​​until she retired in 1990.

She was 65 years old, but a woman with so much energy and a privileged mind could not be left without doing anything for others.

She dedicated her time to maintaining contact with the astronomical and university communities.

She was also able to work a little more in helping to publicize the contribution of women in the field of astronomy.

With this intention, she took an active part in the “Women and Astronomy Commission” of the Spanish Astronomy Society. This commission is dedicated to promoting the visibility and participation of astronomers in the activities of the Spanish astronomical community.

In order to promote visibility among the general public, the “Women and Astronomy Commission” participates in the development of various events, such as activities related to the celebration of the day of women and girls in science, on 11 February of each year, and various outreach activities such as the exhibitionWith A of astronomers‘.

Assumpció Català died in Barcelona in 2009. She was an excellent teacher and astronomer, like Antonia Ferrín Moreiras; a great teacher and scientist, like the inventor Ángela Ruiz Robles; a vocational mathematician and defender of making visible the scientific contribution of women, as Dr. Marta Macho has been with enormous dedication and efficiency.

Telescope
The Assumpció Català telescope, the first with a woman’s name. Credit: University of Barcelona

Since March 2016, the Dall-Kirham reflector telescope, installed in the “Observation Center of the Universe”, in Lleida, has been named Assumpció Català.

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