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Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Physicist and Astronomer

The Life Scientific

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More about Jocelyn Bell Burnell

The first-ever female president of the Institute of Physics, Jocelyn Bell Burnell forged her own path through the male-dominated world of science. She was famously snubbed by the Nobel Prize committee for her discovery of pulsars.

What kind of physics... ?

"I knew I was good at Physics... it was a question of what kind of Physics I would do." "Radio Astronomy - very new, really going places, things happening."

  • Radio Astronomy

    Radio Astronomy

    The visible part of the spectrum has been described as like listening to Beethoven and only being able to hear the middle octave.

    • Radio 4: In Our Time: Radiation In Our Time: Radiation

      In Our Time: RadiationOver the course of the 19th century, physicists from Thomas Young, through Michael Faraday to Henri Becquerel made discovery after discovery, gradually piecing together a radically new picture of reality. They explored the light beyond the visible spectrum, connected electricity and magnetism, and eventually showed that heat, light, radio and mysterious new phenomena like 'X-rays' were all forms of 'electromagnetic wave'. (2009)

    • Radio 4: The Biggest Radio on Earth The Biggest Radio on Earth

      The Biggest Radio on EarthPlans are advancing for the biggest radio on Earth, an array of up to 3000 radio telescopes across a continent. The rewards could be, quite literally, astronomical, with 50 times the sensitivity of anything before and the ability to detect alien broadcasts from distant solar systems and even to image the gaps in dusty discs where planets may orbit. (2011)

  • Jodrell Bank

    Jodrell Bank

    Britain's first Radio Telescope was built by Bernard Lovell at Jodrell Bank in the 1950s, it is also known as 'the big ear'.


"I spent the first two years building the equipment... it was pretty heavy physical work."

Little green men?

"Just occasionally... there was this additional signal that didn't look exactly like a quasar, didn't look exactly like low-level interference..."

The life of stars

"It was only over the next few years as these neutron stars... were found by other astonomers... that we began to realise the magnitude of the discovery we had made."

Sexism in science

"They did not know what to do with a young female scientist. You were young and female you were page three."


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