2019 Reines Lecture: The Discovery of Pulsars

Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 7:30pm

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell will relate how pulsars (pulsating radio sources) were accidentally discovered (50 years ago!), discuss some instances where pulsars were 'nearly discovered' and reflect on what lessons can be drawn for today's telescopes and observing programs. 

Dame Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist who discovered pulsars as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1967. This was one of the most profound and significant astronomical discoveries of the 20th Century. It was recently announced that she was awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize for 2018. What is especially noteworthy is that she donated all the prize money to Britain’s Institute of Physics to establish scholarships for women, under-represented minorities and refugees who want to study physics. She has received numerous other accolades including the Oppenheimer prize, the Michelson medal, the Tinsley prize, and the Magellanic Premium, as well as the Herschel Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society and being knighted by the Queen of England. Some three dozen UK, Irish, European and US universities have conferred honorary doctorates on her. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, former (and first female) President of the Institute of Physics, former (and first female) President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and former President of the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society as well as a foreign member of some 7 academies. She has been affiliated with numerous universities including the Open University, a public distance learning and research university. She is currently a visiting professor at Oxford University and Chancellor of the University of Dundee. She hopes that her presence as a senior woman in science will encourage more women to consider a career in science.

In her spare time she walks, gardens, listens to classical music and is active in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). She has co-edited an anthology of poetry with an astronomical theme – ‘Dark Matter; Poems of Space.’

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