SCI Tribute to Dr. Sonia Heptonstall

9:33 AM on Jul 8, 2020


SCI Science Director Alan Bigelow, Ph.D. and Dr. Sonia Heptonstall at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), June 2018.

SCI Science Director Alan Bigelow, Ph.D. and Dr. Sonia Heptonstall at the

United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), June 2018. 


We are saddened to share that Dr. Sonia Heptonstall passed away on 19 March 2020 from pneumonia caused by COVID-19. Dr. Heptonstall served as one of SCI’s representatives to the United Nations and worked to advance international policy regarding the use of solar energy in health promotion. 

While we at Solar Cookers International (SCI) are stunned and shaken in hearing of Sonia's passing, we are forever grateful for the representation she gave for SCI in and around the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG). Sonia had a resounding passion for the United Nations, its history, and everything it stood for.  SCI was fortunate to have had Sonia sharing its messages and amplifying the voices of the women and girls who either benefited or could benefit from solar cooking. SCI is thankful for Sonia and her long-term dedication to advocating for women and girls in areas around the world that have the most need. 

SCI Science Director Alan Bigelow, Ph.D. met Sonia twice in 2018 and reflects with: “I will always remember her passion for the United Nations.  She gave me a wonderful tour of UNOG and while we had focused conversations about the many benefits of solar cooking, Sonia added a dash of humor, which was followed with laughter and smiles.” 

Dr. Heptonstall has a strong background that she used to contribute in countless ways to the furtherance of women’s rights, employment, and health issues. She took an Honours degree in history at Bristol University, followed by a postgraduate Teaching Diploma. Dr. Heptonstall had a Master’s in Education and a Doctorate in Sociology of Education from Harvard University.  She taught in England and then worked as an administrative officer in the British Council both with Anglo German Regional Exchange Links and Commonwealth Scholars. Dr. Heptonstall was a Professor of International Relations at the Geneva Business School and was involved in supervising student research work in the international field. 

Dr. Heptonstall’s dedication to the United Nations and Solar Cookers International was steadfast and inspiring. We will do our best to honor Sonia’s hard work and dedication to solar cooking with our continued efforts.  In fact, about a million people a year pass away from pneumonia due to cooking fire smoke.  We are working hard to reduce that in honor of Sonia and the many solar cooking champions and advocates. If you would like to make a donation in honor of Dr. Sonia Heptonstall, a tribute card will be sent to her surviving family, click here


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Dr. Sonia Heptonstall and her surviving husband John Heptonstall.  This was one of the last

pictures taken of Sonia before she, unfortunately, passed away from COVID-19 on 19 March, 2020.   


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Dr. Sonia Heptonstall, a true champion for women and solar cooking, in the early 1960s