BBC News

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell to be Royal Society's first female president

image copyrightThe Royal Society of Edinburgh
image captionDame Jocelyn Bell Burnell starts the three-year post in October

The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's national academy of science and the arts, has appointed its first female president.

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist credited with one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th Century.

She was a doctoral student at Cambridge University when she discovered the first pulsars.

The rapidly spinning neutron stars are formed in supernova explosions.

The cosmic sources of radio signals are so regular that some people had thought they might come from extra-terrestrials.

The discovery won a Nobel Prize in 1974 - not for Dame Jocelyn, but for two male superiors.

Since then she has become one of the UK's most prominent female scientists.

During her distinguished career she has been president of both the Institute of Physics and the Royal Astronomical Society.

'Important time'

She will take up the three-year post as president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which received its royal charter in 1783, in October.

media captionDame Jocelyn Bell Burnell studied at Glasgow University

Dame Jocelyn said: "This will be an important time for Scotland as it finds its way forward following the referendum."

She takes over from Sir John Arbuthnott, who said he was "delighted to welcome Dame Jocelyn as my successor".

"Her scientific standing, her public profile and her great breadth of experience will greatly benefit the Royal Society of Edinburgh," he said.

More on this story

  • Charity urges action over 'growing digital divide'