Sunday, September 13, 2015

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell in 2009

A Quaker, astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1943-) discussed her religious history and beliefs in an interview with Baroness Joan Bakewell in 2006. Dame Jocelyn has been an active Quaker since her school days at the Mount School in York, a Quaker girls' boarding school.

Bell Burnell was a doctoral student at Cambridge University when she discovered the first pulsars. The rapidly spinning neutron stars are formed in supernova explosions.

Jocelyn’s discovery of radio pulsars was described by Iosif Shklovsky as “the greatest astronomical discovery of the 20th century” and for this discovery, her thesis supervisor  Antony Hewish, and his colleague Martin Ryle were awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics. Burnell was completely omitted as a co-recipient, to the outrage of many prominent astronomers at the time. However, Burnell has since received many awards and honors. 

She served as President of the Royal Astronomical Society and the first women president of the Institute of Physics. Bell Burnell was elected as President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in October 2014, succeeding Sir John Arbuthnott who said he was "delighted to welcome Dame Jocelyn as my successor" and he added, "Her scientific standing, her public profile and her great breadth of experience will greatly benefit the Royal Society of Edinburgh." 

In March 2013 Dame Jocelyn was elected Pro-Chancellor of the University of Dublin.

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