Sunday, September 3, 2017

WOMEN IN STEM: Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Article Written By: Teresa Marotta


Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1943-) is an Irish astrophysicist who discovered pulsars, a highly magnetized, rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation. As a child, Bell Burnett was interested in science and her passion was fueled by her parents who encouraged her with books and trips to a nearby observatory. Despite her desire for knowledge, Bell Burnell originally had difficulty in grade school and failed an exam that intended to measure her readiness for higher education. Bell Burnell later attended the University of Glasgow where she earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1965. Later that year, Bell Burnell started her graduate studies in radio astronomy at the University of Cambridge. Over the next two years she helped build a radio telescope designed to monitor quasars. In 1967 when the radio telescope was operational, Bell Burnell analyzed the data it produced and she eventually found some anomalies. With her team, they were able to deduce that the radio pulses were made by neutron stars. In 1974, only Hewish and Ryle (the main scientists on the team) received the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work. While a large group of the scientific community raised their objections, Bell Burnell humbly rejected the idea that she was cheated out of winning the Nobel Prize. In recognition for her contributions, Bell Burnell has been awarded Commander and Dame of the Order of the British Empire in 1999 and 2007 and many other prestigious awards.

Quote: “Scientists should never claim that something is absolutely true. You should never claim perfect, or total, or 100% because you never ever get there.”

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