2014 NASA image of spinning neutron star in space

Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Pulsars and the universe

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell delivers the Walter Stibbs Lecture
Hear from one of the greatest astrophysicists and role models of our time. Best known for her discovery of pulsars, Jocelyn Bell Burnell has paved a path for furthering scientific knowledge and education.

In physics there are few female scientists more inspirational and influential than Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a visiting professor of astrophysics at Oxford University.

Her greatest discovery happened in 1967 when she was a postgraduate student at Cambridge University. Using a radio telescope she had helped to build, Jocelyn became the first person to discover pulsars — rotating neutron stars that appear to ‘pulse’ since the beam of light they emit can only be seen when it faces the Earth. The discovery led to a Nobel Prize for her PhD supervisor, Antony Hewish, and is considered one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. Since then Jocelyn has gone on to accomplish a number of other remarkable milestones.

She became the first female president of both the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and helped set up the Athena Swan program to advance female participation in science. Last year her work was honoured with one of the world's most prestigious physics prizes – the $A4.3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. She joined a very select group of physicists to receive the prize, including Stephen Hawking.

She was appointed to Dame Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for services to astronomy in 1999, followed by a Dame Commander Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2007.

This event was held on Tuesday 16 July, 2019 at the University of Sydney.

The Professor Walter Stibbs Lectureship commemorates the achievements of Professor Stibbs through an annual lecture by a distinguished astronomer of international standing. The Walter Stibbs Lecture is supported by a gift from the Stibbs family and sponsored by the Sydney Institute for Astronomy. Jocelyn's visit was also supported by the Physics Foundation.

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