Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Since her death in 1979, the woman who discovered what the universe is made of has not received a memorial plaque or even an obituary mentioning her great discovery. Everyone knows Charles Darwin discovered evolution and Albert Einstein discovered the relativity of time. But when it comes to the composition of our universe, textbooks simply say the most abundant atom in the universe is hydrogen. And no one ever wonders how we know?
Names have power, so let us speak of hers. Her name is Sharbat Gula, and she is Pashtun, that most warlike of Afghan tribes. It is said of the Pashtun that they are only at peace when they are at war, and her eyes—then and now—burn with ferocity. She is 28, perhaps 29, or even 30. No one, not even she, knows for sure. Stories shift like sand in a place where no records exist.