Geoffrey Burbidge

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Geoffrey Burbidge
Born Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge
(1925-09-24)24 September 1925
Died 26 January 2010(2010-01-26) (aged 84)
Alma mater University of Bristol
University of London
Spouse(s) Margaret Burbidge
Awards FRS[1]

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]

Early life and education[edit]

Burbidge was born in Chipping Norton Oxfordshire, a small market town in the Cotswolds roughly midway between Oxford and Stratford-on-Avon, where he attended grammar school. His father was Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge, 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 Ph.D. from University College London (UCL) in 1951.[citation needed] While at UCL he worked with Professor H. S. W. Massey who was then head of the department of mathematics.[4]

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.[citation needed] He was the Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory from 1978 to 1984.[5]


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 initials of the surnames of the four authors. This 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.[5]

Alternative cosmology[edit]

In recent years Burbidge was known mostly for his alternative cosmology "quasi-steady state theory", which contradicts the Big Bang theory.[6]

According to Burbidge, the universe is oscillatory and as such, expands and contracts periodically over infinite time. This theory, due to its controversial nature, has brought a certain amount of fame (or even notoriety) to Burbidge.

Awards and honours[edit]

Personal life[edit]

He met Margaret Peachey and they married in 1948.[5]

Burbidge died on 26 January 2010 in La Jolla, California.[11]


  1. ^ a b Longair, Malcolm; Rees, Martin (2017). "Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge. 24 September 1925 — 26 January 2010". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2017.0002. ISSN 0080-4606.
  2. ^ "Geoffrey Burbidge personal page".
  3. ^ "Geoffrey Burbidge". The Telegraph - Obituaries. Telegraph Media Group. 2010-03-05. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b c Dennis Overbye (2010-02-06). "Geoffrey Burbidge, Who Traced Life to Stardust, Is Dead at 84". New York Times.
  6. ^ Richard Panek (2005-11-22). "Two Against the Big Bang". Discover magazine.
  7. ^ "Grants, Prizes, and Awards". American Astronomical Society. Archived from the original on 22 December 2010.
  8. ^ "The Bruce Medallists: Geoffrey Burbidge". Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  9. ^ "NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 18 March 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  10. ^ "Academy honors 18 for major contributions to science". 2007-01-17.
  11. ^ Childs, Martin (2010-04-24). "Geoffrey Burbidge: Astrophysicist notorious for his rejection of the Big Bang theory". The Independent - Obituaries. Retrieved 2012-03-19.

External links[edit]