Geoffrey Burbidge

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Geoffrey Burbidge

Geoffrey Burbidge.jpg
Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge

(1925-09-24)24 September 1925
Died26 January 2010(2010-01-26) (aged 84)
Alma mater
(m. 1948)
Scientific career
FieldsTheoretical astrophysics
ThesisThe interaction between mesons and light atoms (1951)
Doctoral advisorH.S.W. Massey

Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge FRS[1] (24 September 1925 – 26 January 2010) was an English astronomy professor and theoretical astrophysicist, most recently at the University of California, San Diego. He was married to astrophysicist Margaret Burbidge[2] and was one of the authors of the influential B2FH paper.

Early life and education[edit]

Burbidge was born in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, a small market town in the Cotswolds, where he attended grammar school. His father, also Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge, was a builder.[3]

He first attended the University of Bristol to study history, but changed to physics, receiving his degree in 1946. In 1947, he went to London and received his PhD from University College London (UCL) in 1950.[4] While at UCL he worked with Professor H. S. W. Massey who was then head of the department of mathematics.[5]

Career and research[edit]

With his wife Margaret Burbidge he worked at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Cambridge, before Margaret obtained work at the California Institute of Technology, while Geoffrey worked at the Mount Wilson Observatory and Palomar Observatory. They both obtained positions at the University of California, San Diego, in 1962.[4] He was the Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory from 1978 to 1984.[6] He was the Editor of the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics from 1974 to 2004.[7][8]


In collaboration with American physicist William Fowler and British astronomer Fred Hoyle, he and his wife were co-authors of Synthesis of the Elements in Stars, a fundamental paper on stellar nucleosynthesis published in 1957. It is commonly referred to as the B2FH paper after the initial letters of the four authors' surnames. The paper describes the process of stars burning lighter elements into successively heavier atoms which then are expelled to form other structures in the universe, including other stars and planets.[6]

Alternative cosmology[edit]

In his late years, Burbidge was known mostly for his alternative cosmology "quasi-steady state theory", which contradicts the Big Bang theory.[9] According to Burbidge, the universe is oscillatory and as such, expands and contracts periodically over infinite time.

Awards and honours[edit]

Personal life[edit]

He met Margaret Peachey and they married in 1948.[6]

Burbidge died on 26 January 2010 in La Jolla, California.[15]


  1. ^ Longair, Malcolm; Rees, Martin (2017). "Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge. 24 September 1925 – 26 January 2010". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 63: 55–78. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2017.0002. ISSN 0080-4606.
  2. ^ "Geoffrey Burbidge personal page".
  3. ^ "Geoffrey Burbidge". The Telegraph - Obituaries. Telegraph Media Group. 5 March 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Burbidge, Geoffrey Ronald [Geoff]". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/102557. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Burbidge, Geoffrey (2007). "An Accidental Career". Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. 45 (1): 1–41. Bibcode:2007ARA&A..45....1B. doi:10.1146/annurev.astro.45.051806.110552. ISSN 0066-4146.
  6. ^ a b c Dennis Overbye (6 February 2010). "Geoffrey Burbidge, Who Traced Life to Stardust, Is Dead at 84". New York Times.
  7. ^ Burbidge, Geoffrey (September 1974). "Preface by The Editor". Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. 12 (1). doi:10.1146/annurev.aa.12.010174.100001. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  8. ^ Blandford, Roger; Kormendy, John; Van Dishoeck, Ewine (2005). "Preface". Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. 43 (1). doi:10.1146/annurev.aa.43.080505.100001. ISSN 0066-4146.
  9. ^ Richard Panek (22 November 2005). "Two Against the Big Bang". Discover magazine.
  10. ^ "Grants, Prizes, and Awards". American Astronomical Society. Archived from the original on 22 December 2010.
  11. ^ "APS Fellow Archive". APS. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  12. ^ "The Bruce Medallists: Geoffrey Burbidge". Retrieved 27 January 2010.
  13. ^ "NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 18 March 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  14. ^ "Academy honors 18 for major contributions to science". 17 January 2007.
  15. ^ Childs, Martin (24 April 2010). "Geoffrey Burbidge: Astrophysicist notorious for his rejection of the Big Bang theory". The Independent. Retrieved 19 March 2012.

External links[edit]