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Fellows Directory

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE FRS

Fellow


Elected: 2003

Biography

Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist, best known for her discovery of pulsars — rotating neutron stars that appear to ‘pulse’ since the beam of light 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 — ‘Little Green Man 1’ — 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 Horizon documented her discovery of ‘Little Green Man 1’.

Professional positions

President, Royal Society of Edinburgh
Visiting Professor of Astrophysics, Department of Astrophysics, University of Oxford
Pro Chancellor, Trinity College Dublin

Interests and expertise

Subject groups

Awards

  • Michael Faraday Prize

    On 'The end of the world in 2012? Science communication and science scares'.

  • Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture

    On 'The end of the world in 2012? Science communication and science scares'.

  • Royal Medals

    For her pivotal contribution in observing, analysing & understanding pulsars, one of the most important astronomical discoveries of the 20th century.