Carmen Adelina Gutiérrez Alonso Moreno

Quick Info

27 May 1925
Santiago de Chile, Chile
11 April 2015
Santiago de Chile, Chile

Adelina Gutiérrez was a Chilean professor, scientist and academic who was the main force behind setting up the first Bachelor's degree in Astronomy in Chile and later the first Master's degree in Astronomy. She was the first Chilean to obtain a doctorate in astrophysics and also the first woman elected to the Chilean Academy of Sciences.


Adelina Gutiérrez's full name was Carmen Adelina Gutiérrez Alonso but after her marriage to Hugo Moreno she used the name Adelina Gutiérrez Moreno. She was the daughter of Ramón Gutiérrez and Carmen Alonso. Adelina attended the María Auxiliadora school in Santiago de Chile. This school had been founded in 1884 on Club Hípico street by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a Christian religious order founded in Turin, Italy. In 1903 it moved to Avenida Matta 726 and it was there when Adelina attended the school. She graduated with good grades from María Auxiliadora school in 1942 and, with mathematics and physics her favourite subjects, entered the Pedagogical Institute of the University of Chile to train as a mathematics and physics teacher. We will refer to her as Gutiérrez for the rest of this biography, although from 1966 on she published under the name Gutiérrez-Moreno.

Mathematics and physics courses at the Pedagogical Institute had undergone major changes under the influence of Carlos Grandjot. You can read about the developments in mathematics and physics at the Pedagogical Institute at THIS LINK.

While studying at the Pedagogical Institute, Gutiérrez met a fellow student Hugo Moreno León who was also studying science subjects. She gained the qualification to teach mathematics and physics at schools in 1948 and for a short time taught at the Liceo Darío Salas. This co-educational high school opened in 1947 in Santiago de Chile and introduced some innovative educational ideas. On 1 June 1949 she began working at the National Astronomical Observatory, which was part of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile. Hugo Moreno also worked at the National Astronomical Observatory and it is unclear whether he influenced Gutiérrez to move to astronomy or whether she influenced him. They married in 1951 and went on to have three children: Hugo Moreno, Carmen Moreno and Alfredo Moreno.

The National Astronomical Observatory was inaugurated in 1852 and was one of the first observatories in Latin America. A government decree of 14 July 1927 had the University of Chile take charge of the National Astronomical Observatory, so at that time it became part of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. With this decision, the Chilean government transferred the responsibility for the development of astronomy in the country to the University of Chile. Soon after Gutiérrez began working there, Federico Rutllant (1904-1971) became the director. Rutllant was a mathematician and astronomer who had taught Higher Algebra, Introduction to Infinitesimal Calculus, Plane and Spherical Trigonometry, Analytical Geometry, and Cosmography and Astronomy at the Pedagogical Institute in the 1940s. Gutiérrez's husband, Hugo Moreno, writes [13]:-
In 1950 Professor Federico Rutllant was appointed Director of the Observatorio Astronómico Nacional. He was a very active and enthusiastic person who had in mind many ambitious programmes which in the long run could contribute to modernise the astronomical activities of the Observatory. Perhaps his most important dream was to see an international astrophysical observatory established in Chile.
When Gutiérrez began working at the National Astronomical Observatory in 1949 she was assigned to mathematical tasks related to the reduction of astronomical data obtained by other colleagues, including her future husband Hugo Moreno. Soon, however, she began to undertake research on her own and her first publication was Determinaciones astronómicas realizadas con teodolito (1953). Gutiérrez wished to undertake research for a doctorate and was encouraged by the Director of the National Astronomical Observatory. She was also encouraged by her husband. María Teresa Ruiz, who was a student of Gutiérrez's, was the winner of the National Prize for Exact Sciences in 1997 and the first woman President of the Chilean Academy of Sciences in 2016, wrote about Gutiérrez undertaking doctoral studies in the United States (see [16]):-
The doctorate is what enables you to do research and she got it at great personal cost. She had the support of her husband, Hugo Moreno, who stayed in Chile with her children while she studied. At that time, 50 years ago, it was something heroic.
On 12 January 1960, Gutiérrez flew on the airline Lan from Santiago de Chile to Miami, Florida on her way to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. She gives her United States address as Astronomy Department, Indiana University and her permanent address as Rotario Paul Harris 9041, Santiago, Chile. She was awarded a Ph.D. in Astrophysics in June 1964 and so became the first Chilean to obtain a doctorate in astrophysics.

After the award of her doctorate, Gutiérrez returned to the University of Chile and together with her husband Hugo Moreno and Claudio Anguita (1930-2000), who was the director of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Chile, worked on setting up the first Bachelor's Degree in Astronomy offered in Chile. The degree was created in 1965 and the first students were accepted onto the course in 1966. Also in 1966 she began publishing research papers and had at least 8 papers published in the five years 1966-1970. These included: The atmospheric extinction at Cerro Tololo (1967); Spectrophotometry of early type stars (1968); Spectrophotometric Parameters of Early-Type stars II. Relative Spectral-Intensity Distributions (1968); Photoelectric observations of W Serpentis (1969); The Atmospheric Extinction at Cerro Tololo, 1967-69 (1970); and Effects of reddening on colour transformations (1970).

The Chilean Academy of Sciences was founded in 1964, limited to a maximum of 18 members. Towards the end of 1967 Gutiérrez was elected as the first woman member of the Academy. She became the 12th member and the first astronomer to be elected to the Academy. Carlos Mori (1904-1985), who had become its President in September 1967, introduced Gutiérrez saying:-
It is an honour for this Academy to be the first to incorporate a lady into its list of members, because all of us recognise in the female sex the same intellectual qualities and human conditions that were attributed for a long time, in my opinion with a false sense of superiority, only to men.
Having established a Bachelor's Degree in Astronomy, Gutiérrez worked on the introduction of a Master's Degree in Astronomy in the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile. The first students began studying for this Master's Degree in 1976.

Gutiérrez was a pioneer in photoelectric photometry of southern stars and the author of many books and study manuals, among which we mention Observando los Astros: Desarrollo de las Técnicas de Astrofísica (1978). In this book she deals chronologically, from Galileo up to the date on which she wrote the book, with the techniques of astronomy and astrophysics. She writes:-
The great scientific advances are usually linked to the invention of new instruments. That is why when we think of the telescope we immediately recall its long and successful association with astronomy. Were it not for this interaction, our current knowledge of the heavens would be similar to that of Renaissance astronomers, who thought that the Solar System reached as far as the orbit of Saturn and that the outer limit of our universe was the stars visible to the naked eye.
We have found over 60 papers written by Gutiérrez, most of them with her husband and sometimes also with other colleagues. Her youngest son Alfredo Moreno spoke about his parents' academic partnership (see [3]):-
They worked together. For my mother, the fact of having taken an unusual option for the female environment filled her with pride.
We should note that Gutiérrez spent much time bringing up her children and only worked part-time until the end of 1973. She was totally committed to her work but was very keen that her young children would also discover the pleasures in the world she was investigating. She always took her three little children for a walk to the Planetarium and often to see the telescopes that were on the Calán and Tololo hills. Her daughter Carmen recalled (see [9]):-
She loved talking about astronomy, so much so that she explained the theory of black holes to us in a simple way for us to understand. My mother narrated a wonderful world and it was impressive how she taught it.
Gutiérrez had interests in addition to astronomy and her family; she loved music, movies and literature. She always read books in her bed and it was usually a book by an author such as Agatha Christie, Barbara Wood, Edgard Alan Poe, Alberto Fuget, Gabriela Mistral or Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. These last two were poets and Gutiérrez was keen to write poems herself. Her daughter Carmen recalled (see [3]):-
I remember reading some poems that my mother wrote to the Virgin Mary.
Mónica Rubio studied at the University of Chile, then was awarded a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and Space Science by the University of Paris in 1992. She received the 2021 National Exact Sciences Award and, in an interview by the Ministry of Science, spoke about the inspiration the Gutiérrez had been to her (see [11]):-
I had no references at that time, but I had read Asimov's books with great interest. Then Dr Adelina Gutiérrez, the only woman in the Department of Astronomy, the only astronomer who had a doctorate, made a great impression on me, the rest of the professors had not studied abroad. She was dedicated to an area that did not motivate me much, but the fact that she was a woman, mother of three children, that she had managed to advance her career, travelling abroad, at that time was very pioneering. She was a great encouragement to me.
From 1 January 1974 Gutiérrez worked full time until she retired on 30 December 1987. She was far too active and enthusiastic to stop work at that time, however, and from 1 January 1990 she worked part-time at the observatory at Casa de Bello until 30 June 1998. Although retired, she continued to publish papers, the final three being: New spectroscopic observations of the planetary nebula PC 11 (1998); Trigonometric distances of planetary nebulae (1999); and Spectroscopic Observations of Some S-type Symbiotic Stars (1999).

Her husband Hugo Moreno died in 2000 but Gutiérrez outlived him by 15 years during which time she continued to live in Santiago de Chile. She died aged 89 and was buried in the Parque del Recuerdo in Santiago on Sunday, 12 April 2015. After her death the Chilean Academy of Sciences honoured her by establishing the Adelina Gutiérrez Award for Scientific Excellence which recognises outstanding research abilities in those under the age of 40.

Perhaps Gutiérrez achieved her greatest fame in 2020, five years after her death, when on 27 May of that year, Google celebrated what would have been her 95th birthday with one of their famous doodles on the main page of their search engine in Chile, Argentina and Peru. Ana María Gómez, Marketing Manager of Google Chile, said (see [10]):-
For Adelina the sky was not the limit, and at Google we are proud to be able to celebrate the life and work of this woman who undoubtedly left a great mark in her field of action. With this doodle we want to continue fulfilling our mission of contributing to the conservation and democratisation of the legacy of women like Adelina Gutiérrez and we extend an invitation to learn more about her enormous legacy to national science.
You can see the doodle at THIS LINK.

José Maza was a student of Gutiérrez's and he was awarded the National Prize for Exact Sciences in 1999. He said (see [16]):-
... all of us who passed through the Observatory in the late 1960s and early 1970s had courses with Adelina Gutiérrez. She made a very solid scientific career and we owe her for having started this path for all of us. ... She was very active in the 1970s and 1980s at the Chilean Academy of Sciences. I have heard that she went to all the meetings, she was always worried about what was going on and she was secretary, treasurer and even got to be vice president.
Let us end with this quote from [14]:-
Today, when we begin to say goodbye to the International Year of Astronomy, Chile's leading role in the world astronomical concert is recognised. It is, then, the right time to remember and honour the first national astronomer, a pillar of the development of current astrophysics, whose ability and discipline were stronger than the prejudices and limitations of the time.

References (show)

  1. Adelina Gutiérrez Alonso's 95th birthday, (27 May 2020).
  2. Adelina Gutiérrez (1925-2015), Mujeres Bacanas.
  3. Adelina Gutiérrez: la mujer que marcó la astronomía chilena, Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, University of Chile (27 May 2020).
  4. V L Almazán, Historia de la Astronomía en Chile: Caídos del cielo, Diario Uchile, Radio Universidad de Chile (1 September 2013).
  5. R P Benavente, Adelina Gutiérrez, la astrónoma chilena que quiso enseñar astronomía en su país, Mujeres con ciencia (16 July 2020).
  6. Café Científico de FCFM rinde homenaje a primera astrónoma de Chile, Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, University of Chile (19 October 2012).
  7. A Dávalos, Adelina Gutiérrez pionera en la docencia de la astronomía chilena, Beauchef Magazine 12 (2019).
  8. F G Dossena, Quién fue Adelina Gutiérrez Alonso, la científica que hoy homenajea Google, Baires En Línea (27 May 2020).
  9. Fallece la pionera de la astronomía chilena, University of Chile (13 April 2015).
  10. Google y U Chile celebran con un doodle a la primera PhD en astrofísica chilena, Adelina Gutiérrez, Center for Excellence in Astrophysics and Associated Technologies (2020).
  11. I Huaiquilao, Adelina Gutiérrez, la primera astrónoma chilena que enseñó a ver las estrellas, elmo strador (10 May 2022).
  12. A Lopes, Adelina Gutiérrez, la astrofísica sin límites en el cosmos, El País (27 May 2020).
  13. H Moreno, Chilean Astronomers and the Birth of Cerro Tololo, Revista Mexicana de Astronomia y Astrofisica 21 (1990), 683-686.
  14. Personas de Ciencia. Adelina Gutiérrez, Boletín Explora 39 (December 2009).
  15. I Plant, S García-Huidobro, C Quintana and F Claro, Mujeres bacanas latinas: Si ellas pudieron, nosotras también (Editorial Catalonia, 2019).
  16. F Ramirez, Académicos recuerdan legado de mujer clave en la astronomía nacional, Universidad de Chile.
  17. A Sandoval, Conoce a Adelina Gutiérrez, científica responsable de que la Astronomía sea una carrera profesional en Chile, FayerWayer (16 May 2022).

Additional Resources (show)

Other pages about Adelina Gutiérrez Moreno:

  1. The Pedagogical Institute of Chile
  2. Google doodle

Cross-references (show)

Written by J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
Last Update November 2022