Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Bell Burnell in 2009
Susan Jocelyn Bell
15 July 1943
|Known for||Co-discovering the first four pulsars|
(m. 1968; div. 1993)
|Thesis||The Measurement of radio source diameters using a diffraction method (1968)|
|Doctoral advisor||Antony Hewish|
Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell //; born 15 July 1943) is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland who, as a postgraduate student, discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967. She was credited with "one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century". The discovery was recognised by the award of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics but, despite being the first person to discover the pulsars, she was not one of the recipients of the prize.(
The paper announcing the discovery of pulsars had five authors. Bell's thesis supervisor Antony Hewish was listed first, Bell second. Hewish was awarded the Nobel Prize, along with the astronomer Martin Ryle. Many prominent astronomers criticised Bell's omission, including Sir Fred Hoyle. In 1977, Bell Burnell played down this controversy, saying, "I believe it would demean Nobel Prizes if they were awarded to research students, except in very exceptional cases, and I do not believe this is one of them." The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, in its press release announcing the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics, cited Ryle and Hewish for their pioneering work in radio-astrophysics, with particular mention of Ryle's work on aperture-synthesis technique, and Hewish's decisive role in the discovery of pulsars.
Bell Burnell served as president of the Royal Astronomical Society from 2002 to 2004, as president of the Institute of Physics from October 2008 until October 2010, and as interim president of the Institute following the death of her successor, Marshall Stoneham, in early 2011.
In 2018, she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Following the announcement of the award, she decided to give the whole of the £2.3 million prize money to help female, minority, and refugee students seeking to become physics researchers, the funds to be administered by the Institute of Physics. The resulting bursary scheme is to be known as the "Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund".
Early life and education
Jocelyn Bell was born in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, to M. Allison and G. Philip Bell. Her father was an architect who had helped design the Armagh Planetarium, and during visits she was encouraged by the staff to pursue astronomy professionally. Young Jocelyn also discovered her father's books on astronomy.
She grew up in Lurgan and attended the Preparatory Department[a] of Lurgan College from 1948 to 1956, where she, like the other girls, was not permitted to study science until her parents (and others) protested against the school's policy. Previously, the girls' curriculum had included such subjects as cooking and cross-stitching rather than science.
She failed the eleven-plus exam and her parents sent her to The Mount School, a Quaker girls' boarding school in York, England. There she was favourably impressed by her physics teacher, Mr Tillott, and stated:
You do not have to learn lots and lots ... of facts; you just learn a few key things, and ... then you can apply and build and develop from those ... He was a really good teacher and showed me, actually, how easy physics was.
Career and research
She graduated from the University of Glasgow with a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Philosophy (physics), with honours, in 1965 and obtained a PhD degree from the University of Cambridge in 1969. At Cambridge, she attended New Hall, Cambridge, and worked with Hewish and others to construct[b] the Interplanetary Scintillation Array just outside Cambridge to study quasars, which had recently been discovered.[c]
On 28 November 1967, she detected a "bit of scruff" on her chart-recorder papers that tracked across the sky with the stars. The signal had been visible in data taken in August, but as the papers had to be checked by hand, it took her three months to find it. She established that the signal was pulsing with great regularity, at a rate of about one pulse every one and a third seconds. Temporarily dubbed "Little Green Man 1" (LGM-1) the source (now known as PSR B1919+21) was identified after several years as a rapidly rotating neutron star. This was later documented by the BBC Horizon series. In a 2020 lecture at Harvard, she related how the media was covering the discovery pulsars, with interviews taking a standard "disgusting" format: Hewish would be asked on the astrophysics, and she would be the "human interest" part, asked about vital statistics, how many boyfriends she had, what colour is her hair, and asked to undo some buttons for the photographs. The Daily Telegraph science reporter shortened "pulsating radio source" to pulsar.
She worked at the University of Southampton between 1968 and 1973, University College London from 1974 to 82 and the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh (1982–91). From 1973 to 1987 she was a tutor, consultant, examiner, and lecturer for the Open University. In 1986, she became the project manager for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. She was Professor of Physics at the Open University from 1991 to 2001. She was also a visiting professor at Princeton University in the United States and Dean of Science at the University of Bath (2001–04), and President of the Royal Astronomical Society between 2002 and 2004.
Bell Burnell is currently Visiting Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Mansfield College. She was President of the Institute of Physics between 2008 and 2010. In February 2018 she was appointed Chancellor of the University of Dundee. In 2018, Bell Burnell visited Parkes, NSW, to deliver the keynote John Bolton lecture at the Central West Astronomical Society (CWAS) AstroFest event.
In 2018, she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, worth three million dollars (£2.3 million), for her discovery of radio pulsars. The Special Prize, in contrast to the regular annual prize, is not restricted to recent discoveries. She donated all of the money "to fund women, under-represented ethnic minority and refugee students to become physics researchers", the funds to be administered by the Institute of Physics.
Nobel Prize controversy
That Bell did not receive recognition in the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics has been a point of controversy ever since. She helped build the Interplanetary Scintillation Array over two years and initially noticed the anomaly, sometimes reviewing as much as 96 feet (29 m) of paper data per night. Bell later said that she had to be persistent in reporting the anomaly in the face of scepticism from Hewish, who was initially insistent that it was due to interference and man-made. She spoke of meetings held by Hewish and Ryle to which she was not invited. In 1977, she commented on the issue:
First, demarcation disputes between supervisor and student are always difficult, probably impossible to resolve. Secondly, it is the supervisor who has the final responsibility for the success or failure of the project. We hear of cases where a supervisor blames his student for a failure, but we know that it is largely the fault of the supervisor. It seems only fair to me that he should benefit from the successes, too. Thirdly, I believe it would demean Nobel Prizes if they were awarded to research students, except in very exceptional cases, and I do not believe this is one of them. Finally, I am not myself upset about it – after all, I am in good company, am I not!
- The Albert A. Michelson Medal of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia (1973, jointly with Dr. Hewish).
- J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize from the Center for Theoretical Studies, University of Miami (1978).
- Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize of the American Astronomical Society (1986).
- Herschel Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1989).
- Jansky Lectureship before the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (1995).
- Magellanic Premium of the American Philosophical Society (2000).
- Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) (March 2003).
- Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) (2004).
- William E. Gordon and Elva Gordon distinguished lecture at the Arecibo Observatory on 27 June 2006.
- The Grote Reber Medal at the General Assembly of the International Radio Science Union in Istanbul (19 August 2011)
- Lise-Meitner-Lecture at the Technical University Vienna (2013)
- The Royal Medal of the Royal Society (2015).
- The Women of the Year Prudential Lifetime Achievement Award (2015)
- The Institute of Physics President's Medal (2017)
- Grande Médaille of the French Academy of Sciences (2018)
- Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (2018)
- 23rd Annual Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture at the University of Connecticut (2019)
- A painting of her by Stephen Shankand, commissioned by the Royal Society, was added to the collection in the Society's Carlton House Terrace headquarters in November 2020.
- Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (2021).
- In 1999, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to Astronomy and promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2007.
- In February 2013, she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.
- In February 2014, she was elected President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the first woman to hold that office. She held the position from April 2014 to April 2018 when she was succeeded by Dame Anne Glover.
- In 2016, the Institute of Physics renamed their award for early-career female physicists the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize.
- In 2016, she was elected an International member of the American Philosophical Society
- In 2020, she was elected a Legacy Fellow of the American Astronomical Society.
- In 2020, she was included by the BBC in a list of seven important but little-known British female scientists.
Her publications[d] include:
- Burnell, S. Jocelyn (1989). Broken for Life. Swarthmore Lecture. London: Quaker Home Service. ISBN 978-0-85245-222-6.
- Riordan, Maurice; Burnell, S. Jocelyn (27 October 2008). Dark Matter: Poems of Space. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. ISBN 978-1-903080-10-8.
Personal and non-academic life
Bell Burnell is house patron of Burnell House at Cambridge House Grammar School in Ballymena. She has campaigned to improve the status and number of women in professional and academic posts in the fields of physics and astronomy.
Quaker activities and beliefs
From her school days, she has been an active Quaker and served as Clerk to the sessions of Britain Yearly Meeting in 1995, 1996 and 1997. She delivered a Swarthmore Lecture under the title Broken for Life, at Yearly Meeting in Aberdeen on 1 August 1989, and was the plenary speaker at the US Friends General Conference Gathering in 2000. She spoke of her personal religious history and beliefs in an interview with Joan Bakewell in 2006.
Bell Burnell served on the Quaker Peace and Social Witness Testimonies Committee, which produced Engaging with the Quaker Testimonies: a Toolkit in February 2007. In 2013 she gave a James Backhouse Lecture which was published in a book entitled A Quaker Astronomer Reflects: Can a Scientist Also Be Religious?, in which Burnell reflects about how cosmological knowledge can be related to what the Bible, Quakerism or Christian faith states.
In 1968, soon after her discovery, Bell married Martin Burnell; the couple divorced in 1993 after separating in 1989. Her husband was a local government officer, and his career took them to various parts of Britain. She worked part-time for many years while raising her son, Gavin Burnell, who is a member of the condensed matter physics group at the University of Leeds.
- The Preparatory Department of Lurgan College closed in 2004, the college becoming a selective grammar school for ages 14–19.
- "... upon entering the faculty, each student was issued a set of tools: a pair of pliers, a pair of long-nose pliers, a wire cutter, and a screwdriver...", said during a public lecture in Montreal during the 40 Years of Pulsars conference, 14 August 2007
- Interplanetary scintillation allows compact sources to be distinguished from extended ones.
- Jocelyn Bell Burnell publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
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- Bell 1968.
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- Pilkington et al. 1968, p. 126.
- AIP 2000.
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- Cosmic Search Vol. 1.
- BBC Scotland 2014.
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- Tesh & Wade 2017, pp. 31–33.
- Westly 2008.
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- NYAS 1977.
- Nobelprize.org 1974.
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- Johnston 2007, pp. 2–3.
- Bertsch McGrayne 1998.
- Lurgan College history.
- Kaufman 2016.
- Interview at NRAO 1995.
- BBC 2011b.
- Schilling 2017.
- BBC 2010.
- Bell Burnell 2020.
- Jocelyn Bell Burnell profile.
- Notable Women 1997.
- University of Bath 2004.
- UoO 2007.
- Institute of Physics: Council.
- Univ of Dundee 2018.
- Warren & Thackray 2018.
- CWAS 2018.
- Merali 2018.
- Breakthrough Prize 2018.
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- BBC 2011a.
- Franklin Institute.
- Walter 1982, p. 438.
- AIoP 1978, p. 68.
- Aas.org 1986.
- Jansky Home Page.
- APS 2008.
- The Royal Society.
- Gold 2006.
- QVMAG 2016.
- Bell Burnell 2013a.
- TU Wien 2013.
- Royal Society.
- Institute of Physics 2017.
- Académie des sciences 2018.
- Ouellette 2018.
- Bell Burnell 2019.
- Brown 2020.
- RAS Gold Medal 2021.
- Addley 2007.
- BBC 1970.
- IOP JBB Prize.
- APS member election.
- AAS 2020.
- Shearing 2020.
- Bell Burnell 2004, pp. 426–89.
- Allan 2015.
- Burnell 1989.
- Bakewell 2010.
- QPSW Testimonies Committee 2007, p. ?.
- Bell Burnell 2013b, p. 11.
- Condensed Matter Physics Group 2010.
- "AAS Fellows". AAS. 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
- Addley, Esther (16 June 2007). "From Russia with gong". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
- Allan, Vicky (5 January 2015). "Face to Face: science star who went under the radar of Nobel Prize judges". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
- "APS Member History". American Philosophical Society. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
- Bakewell, Joan (9 November 2010). "Interview with Jocelyn Bell Burnell". Belief. BBC. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010.
- "Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize". American Astronomical Society. Archived from the original on 17 January 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
- "Beautiful Minds, Series 1". BBC Four. 25 April 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
- "Beautiful Minds, Series 1, Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Part 1 of 3)". BBC Four. 24 April 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
- "Bell Burnell, Dame (Susan) Jocelyn, (born 15 July 1943), astronomer; Visiting Professor of Astrophysics, University of Oxford, since 2004; President, Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2014–March 2018". Who's Who (UK). Oxford University Press. 1 December 2017. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.7157.
- Bell Burnell, Jocelyn (26 October 1995). "The woman who discovered pulsars: An Interview with Jocelyn Bell Burnell at NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)" (Interview). Interviewed by Kate Marsh Weatherall & David G. Finley. Weatherall Technical Applications. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
- Bell Burnell, Jocelyn (21 May 2000). "Oral History Interviews: Jocelyn Bell Burnell" (Interview). Interviewed by David DeVorkin. College Park, MD: AIP.
- Bell Burnell, Jocelyn (2007). "Pulsars 40 Years on". Science. 318 (5850): 579–581. doi:10.1126/science.1150039. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17962545. S2CID 120774849.
- Bell Burnell, Jocelyn (2013b). A Quaker Astronomer Reflects: Can a Scientist Also Be Religious?. James Backhouse Lecture. Australia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). p. 11. ISBN 978-0-646-59239-8.
- Bell Burnell, Jocelyn (15 November 2013a). Pulsars and Extreme Physics. TU Wien. Retrieved 10 September 2019 – via YouTube.
- Bell Burnell, Jocelyn (8 November 2019). 23rd Annual Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture. University of Connecticut. Retrieved 10 November 2019 – via YouTube.
- Bell Burnell, Jocelyn (13 February 2020). "The Discovery Of Pulsars - A graduate student's tale" – via YouTube.
- Bell Burnell, S.J. (2004). "So Few Pulsars, So Few Females". Science. 304 (5670): 426–89. doi:10.1126/science.304.5670.489. PMID 15105461. S2CID 43369972.
- Bell Burnell, S. Jocelyn (1977). "Petit Four – After Dinner Speech published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science Dec 1977". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 302: 685–689. Bibcode:1977NYASA.302..685B. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1977.tb37085.x. S2CID 222086632.
- Bell, Susan Jocelyn (1968). The Measurement of radio source diameters using a diffraction method. repository.cam.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. doi:10.17863/CAM.4926. OCLC 500382385. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.449485.
- Bertsch McGrayne, Sharon (1998). Nobel Prize women in science: their lives, struggles, and momentous discoveries (Rev. ed.). Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Pub. Group. ISBN 978-0-8065-2025-4. OCLC 39633911 – via Internet Archive.
- Brown, Mark (28 November 2020). "'It'll upset a few fellows': Royal Society adds Jocelyn Bell Burnell portrait". the Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
- "Cosmic Search Vol. 1, No. 1 – Little Green Men, White Dwarfs or Pulsars?".
- "Council". Institute of Physics. Archived from the original on 9 March 2011.
- "Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell". The Life Scientific. 25 October 2011. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- "Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell Appointed Chancellor of the University of Dundee". University of Dundee. 20 February 2018. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
- "Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell to be Royal Society's first female president". BBC Scotland. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
- "Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell – 2018 AstroFest Keynote Speaker". Central West Astronomical Society. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
- "The discovery of pulsars". Horizon. BBC. 1 September 2010. BBC Two.
- "Dr Gavin Burnell: Associate Professor in Condensed Matter Physics". Condensed Matter Physics Group, University of Leeds. 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
- Eisberg, Joann (1997). "Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1943–)". In Shearer, Benjamin F.; Shearer, Barbara (eds.). Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press. pp. 9–14. ISBN 978-0-313-29303-0 – via Internet Archive.
- "The Franklin Institute Awards | the Franklin Institute Science Museum". Franklin Institute. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
- "Franklin Laureate Database – Albert A. Michelson Medal Laureates". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
- Ghosh, Pallab (6 September 2018). "Fund to counter physics 'white male bias'". BBC News. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
- Ghosh, Pallab (19 March 2019). "Fund to boost female and black physicist numbers". BBC News.
- Gold, Lauren (6 July 2006). "Discoverer of pulsars (aka Little Green Men) reflects on the process of discovery and being a female pioneer". Cornell Chronicle.
- Hargittai, István (2003). The road to Stockholm: Nobel Prizes, science, and scientists. Oxford University Press. p. 240. Bibcode:2002rost.book.....H. ISBN 978-0-19-860785-4.
- "Hawking receives Einstein Award". Physics Today. 31 (4): 68. April 1978. Bibcode:1978PhT....31d..68.. doi:10.1063/1.2995004.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell, researcher on the staff of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of University College London, is the recipient of the 1978 J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize.
- "Herschel Medal Winners" (PDF). Royal Astronomical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
- Hewish, A.; Bell, S. J.; Pilkington, J. D. H.; Scott, P. F.; Collins, R. A. (1968). "Observation of a Rapidly Pulsating Radio Source". Nature. 217 (5130): 709. Bibcode:1968Natur.217..709H. doi:10.1038/217709a0. S2CID 4277613. For the follow-up paper, see Pilkington et al. 1968.
- "IOP and Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell launch new fund to encourage greater diversity in physics". Institute of Physics. 2019.
- "Jansky Home Page". National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
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- "Jocelyn Bell Burnell retires as Dean". University of Bath. 16 August 2004. Archived from the original on 29 May 2007.
- Johnston, Colin (March 2007). "Pulsar Pioneer visits us" (PDF). Astronotes. Armagh Planetarium. pp. 2–3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
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- Kaufman, Rachel (24 June 2016). "Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell: No asking, just telling". College Park, MD: Sigma Pi Sigma. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
- "Kleine grüne Männchen und pulsierende Sterne" [Pulsars and Little Green Men] (in German). Technical University Vienna. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- "Les lauréats des prix de l'Académie des sciences attribués en 2018" [2018 Laureates of the French Academy of Sciences Prize] (in French). Académie des sciences. 24 July 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- "Lurgan College: School History". Retrieved 7 February 2018.
- "The Magellanic Premium of the American Philosophical Society". American Philosophical Society. 2008. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009.
- McKie, Robin (2 October 2010). "Fred Hoyle: the scientist whose rudeness cost him a Nobel prize". The Guardian.
- McNaughton, Marion; Pegler, Linda; Arriens, Jan; Dale, Jonathan; Steven, Helen; Perks, Nick; Michaelis, Laurie (2007). Engaging with the Quaker Testimonies: a Toolkit. Quaker Books for Quaker Peace & Social Witness Testimonies Committee. ISBN 978-0-901689-59-7.
- Merali, Zeeya (6 September 2018). "Pulsar discoverer Jocelyn Bell Burnell wins $3-million Breakthrough Prize". Nature. 561 (7722): 161. Bibcode:2018Natur.561..161M. doi:10.1038/d41586-018-06210-w. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 30206391. S2CID 52191212.
- Ouellette, Jennifer (6 September 2018). "Jocelyn Bell Burnell wins $3 million prize for discovering pulsars". Ars Technica. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
- Pilkington, J. D. H.; Hewish, A.; Bell, S. J.; Cole, T. W. (1968). "Observations of some further Pulsed Radio Sources". Nature. 218 (5137): 126. Bibcode:1968Natur.218..126P. doi:10.1038/218126a0. S2CID 4253103. For the first paper (announcing the discovery), see Hewish et al. 1968.
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A Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics can be awarded by the Selection Committee at any time, and in addition to the regular Breakthrough Prize awarded through the ordinary annual nomination process. Unlike the annual Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the Special Prize is not limited to recent discoveries.
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- "Visiting star at college". Lurgan Mail. 13 February 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
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- Irishwoman who discovered the "lighthouses of the universe" Irish Times profile.
| Chancellor of the University of Dundee