Jocelyn Bell Burnell is currently a Visiting Professor of Physics in Oxford University and a Pro-Chancellor at Trinity College Dublin.
She has been a Dean of Science and was for ten years Professor of Physics at the Open University, and had a wonderful year as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Princeton University. She read a Physics degree at Glasgow University. This was followed by a PhD in Cambridge (UK) in Radio Astronomy.
During her time there she discovered the first four pulsars, opening up a new branch of astrophysics – work which was recognised by the award of a Nobel Prize to her supervisor.
She worked subsequently in astronomy at many wavelengths and in many roles, for much of this period working part-time while raising a family. She has used telescopes flown on high-altitude balloons, launched on rockets and carried on satellites, and built a radio telescope which was firmly grounded in Cambridgeshire.
Later in her career she could be found in Hawaii panting for breath at 14000′ and using the UK’s infrared or millimetre waveband telescopes.
She has won many prestigious prizes from learned bodies in the UK and US, including a Royal Medal from the Royal Society (London) and universities there have conferred honorary doctorates on her. She is now a Fellow of several Academies, including the Royal Society, and the US National Academy of Sciences.
Her appointment to the Open University doubled the number of female professors of physics in the UK! She has been President of the Royal Astronomical Society and was the first female President of the UK’s Institute of Physics. She is now the first female President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy.
The public appreciation and understanding of science have always been important to her, and she is much in demand as a speaker and broadcaster. She hopes that her presence as a senior woman in science will encourage more women to consider a career in science.