Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a Northern Irish astrophysicist known for her groundbreaking discovery of “pulsars”. Jocelyn has used telescopes flown on balloons and satellites.
5 facts about Jocelyn Bell Burnell
1. She was the discoverer of radio pulsars alongside her adviser Anthony Hewish, but did not receive credit when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
2. In 2014, she became the first woman to become President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
3. She has been awarded 8 medals and over 15 honorary degrees from schools including the University of Michigan, University of Cambridge and the University of Glasgow.
4. Since she was a Quaker, she served on the "Quaker Peace and Social Witness Testimonies Committee".
5. She is an advocate for wanting to increase the number of women in professional and academic standings in the fields of physics and astronomy.
« There is stardust in your veins. We are literally, ultimately children of the stars. »
« Some of the hydrogen in your body comes from the Big Bang, and when you see a kid walking down the street with a helium balloon, you can say, 'There goes some of the primordial universe. »
« A search for truth seems to me to be full of pitfalls. We all have different understandings of what truth is, and we'll each believe - or we are in danger of each believing - that our truth is the one and only absolute truth, which is why I say it's full of pitfalls. »
Susan Jocelyn Bell was born on 15th July 1943 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her father was an architect and he helped design the Armagh Planetarium.
Jocelyn grew up in Lurgan and attended Lurgan College. She, like all the other girls were not allowed to study science as the girls’ curriculum included subjects like cross-stitching and cooking, however things changed after Jocelyn’s parents had protested against the school’s policy.
Jocelyn failed the 11+ exam, so her parents sent her to Mount School in York which was a Quaker girls’ boarding school.
Jocelyn’s Academic Career
Jocelyn graduated from University of Glasgow with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Natural Philosophy in 1965. She then obtained a PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1969. Here, she worked with others to make a radio telescope.
Jocelyn worked at the University of Southampton from 1968 to 1975. She also worked at the University College London from 1974 to 1982 then the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh from 1982 to 1991. From 1991 to 2001, she was a professor at the Open University.
Susan Jocelyn Bell (Burnell), 1967
Nobel Prize controversy
Although it is believed that it was Jocelyn that had made this discovery of pulsars, she did not receive recognition in the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics, though her colleagues Martin Ryle and Anthony Hewish did.This has been a topic of controversy ever since. The Nobel Prize committee were also criticised by Fred Hoyle, with claims of Anthony Hewish stealing Jocelyn’s data.
Awards & Honours
Although she did not share the 1974 Nobel Prize, Jocelyn has been honoured by many different organisations including the Albert A. Michelson Medal from the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia and many, many more.
In 1999, Jocelyn was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to astronomy and was later promoted to Dame Commander of Order of the British Empire.
In February 2013, she was considered to be one of the most powerful women in the United Kingdom.In February 2014, she was made President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, making her the first woman to hold that office.