The Discoverer of Pulsars
Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE FRS FRSE FRAS, is an
astrophysicist from Northern Ireland who was credited with "one of
the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th
Century". As a postgraduate student, she discovered the first radio
pulsars in 1967. The discovery was recognised by the award of the
Nobel Prize in Physics to her thesis supervisor Antony Hewish.
She graduated from the University of Glasgow with a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Philosophy (physics) in 1965 and obtained a PhD degree from the University of Cambridge in 1969. At Cambridge, she attended New Hall (now Murray Edwards College), and worked with Hewish and others to construct a radio telescope for using interplanetary scintillation to study quasars, which had recently been discovered.
In July 1967, she detected a bit of "scruff" on her chart-recorder papers that tracked across the sky with the stars. 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.
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 James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. She was Professor of Physics in the Open University from 1991 to 2001. She was also a visiting professor in Princeton University in the United States and Dean of Science in 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 in 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.