Jocelyn Bell Burnell wins $3 million prize for discovering pulsars

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Enlarge / Pulsars are spinning neutron stars, the relics of massive stars gone supernova. (credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

When the Nobel Prizes roll around each year, inevitably there is chatter not just about who will win, but about those in the past who should have won, but didn’t, particularly women scientists. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars in the 1960s, is one of the names most commonly invoked. Now 75, she’s just been awarded something arguably better: a $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

Originally founded in 2012, the Breakthrough Prizes are intended to be the “Oscars of Science.” In addition to the regular awards, the selection committee is also free to award a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics any time it wishes, and the honor need not be for recent discoveries. Bell Burnell is being honored “for fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community.”

A quiet revolutionary

Bell Burnell was born in Northern Ireland in 1943. Her father, an architect, often took her to visit the Armagh Planetarium, which he helped design, and the staff there encouraged her to pursue astronomy. The family were Quakers, a religious sect that traditionally supports women’s education. There was just one problem: girls weren’t allowed to study science at the local school.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Jocelyn Bell Burnell wins million prize for discovering pulsars