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Astrophysicist and co-discoverer of the first radio pulsars
28 November 2018
Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist, best known for her discovery of pulsars — rotating neutron stars that appear to ‘pulse’ since the beam of radio waves they emit can only be seen when it faces the Earth. Her observation, made together with her supervisor, Antony Hewish, is considered to be one of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the twentieth century.
In 1967, Jocelyn made her discovery using a telescope that she and Antony had originally built to study the recently detected star-like quasars. She noted a signal that pulsed once every second — nicknamed ‘Little Green Men’ — that was later determined to be a pulsar. Antony went on to receive the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics for his role in the discovery.
Jocelyn has since become a role model for young students and female scientists throughout the world. She was appointed to CBE for services to astronomy in 1999, followed by a DBE in 2007. Her story was featured in the BBC Four’s Beautiful Minds, and BBC Two’s Horizondocumented her discovery of ‘Little Green Man 1’.
She is currently Visiting Professor of Astrophysics, Department of Astrophysics, University of Oxford and Chancellor, University of Dundee.
A series of conversations with distinguished academics, hosted by the Master of Churchill College, Professor Dame Athene Donald.
This series aims to explore the individual paths of some eminent female professionals, who have made it to the top in their own particular ways. How have they found their own solutions to 'life', what tips do they wish they'd been given earlier on, and what might they view, retrospectively, with most pleasure or regret?