Heather Couper

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For the Canadian artist and graphic designer see Heather Cooper
Heather Anita Couper
Born (1949-06-02) 2 June 1949 (age 69)
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality British
Scientific career
Fields Astronomy
Website http://www.hencoup.com/

Prof Heather Anita Couper, CBE, BSc, DSc (Hon), DLitt (Hon), FInstP, CPhys, FRAS[1] (born 2 June 1949),[2] is a British astronomer and science populariser, and was president of the British Astronomical Association from 1984 to 1986.

Early life[edit]

Couper was born on 2 June 1949. She is the eldest daughter of George Couper Elder Couper and Anita Couper (née Taylor). At the age of seven or eight, she was watching planes in the night sky because her father was an airline pilot, when she unexpectedly witnessed a bright green meteor. Her parents said there was no such thing; but a newspaper headline the next day referred to the "green shooting star," and Couper then determined to become an astronomer.[3]

She attended St Mary's Grammar School (merged with St. Nicholas Grammar School in 1977 to become Haydon School) on Wiltshire Lane in Northwood Hills, Middlesex. In a TV tribute to Patrick Moore she read out a letter from Moore she received when she was aged 16 in which he responded to a question of hers with the comment that "being a girl" was not detrimental to a career in astronomy. She graduated from the University of Leicester with a BSc in Astronomy and Physics and did research at the Department of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, whilst a postgraduate student at Linacre College, Oxford.[4]


From 1967-9 she was a management trainee with Peter Robinson Ltd. From 1969-70, she was a research assistant at the Cambridge Observatory. She was a lecturer at Greenwich Planetarium (superseded in 2007 by the Peter Harrison Planetarium) and the Old Royal Observatory from 1977-83. She became a television presenter in 1981.

Couper has written and co-written several books on astronomy and space, many of these in collaboration with Nigel Henbest, and made many presentations for radio, television, and in public. From 1993 to 1996, she gave public lectures as professor of astronomy at Gresham College, London.

She became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1970 and of the Institute of Physics in 1999, when she also became a Chartered physicist. She was President of the British Astronomical Association in 1984-6, and of the Junior Astronomical Society (Society for Popular Astronomy) from 1987-9. She is the astronomy correspondent for The Independent newspaper.

On 2 June 1999, asteroid 3922 Heather was named in her honour.[5]

In 2007 she was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for her work on the Millennium Commission which she joined in 1994.


Couper along with Henbest and Stuart Carter co-founded Pioneer Productions, an independent UK TV production company creating factual programming, in 1988. Couper subsequently left Pioneer Productions in 1999 to concentrate on more general radio and TV appearances.

In 2006 she presented a two-part radio series A Brief History of Infinity for BBC World Service, produced by Heavy Entertainment.

In 2008 she won the Sir Arthur Clarke Award with Martin Redfern for their programme Britain's Space Race on BBC Radio 4's Archive Hour. Also in 2008 she presented a 30 part x 15 minute history of Astronomy Cosmic Quest also for Radio 4.

Selected bibliography[edit]

Co-authored with David Pelham:

Written with Nigel Henbest:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Heather Couper". hencoup.com. 
  2. ^ "Birthday's today". The Telegraph. 2 June 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2014. Prof Heather Couper, science broadcaster and author, 62 
  3. ^ Sale, Jonathan. "Passed/failed: Heather Couper". The Independent. The Independent. Retrieved 22 October 2017. 
  4. ^ "COUPER, Heather Anita". Who's Who 2015. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "Profile of Heather Couper". BBC Radio 4. 26 May 2008. Archived from the original on 20 June 2009. 

External links[edit]