Jocelyn Bell Burnell - Scientist Highlight
Jocelyn Bell Burnell - Scientist Highlight
Jocelyn Bell Burnell - Scientist Highlight
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Jocelyn Bell Burnell was born in Northern Ireland on July 15, 1943. As a young child, Jocelyn learned about astronomy through books. She lived near Armagh Observatory which helped encourage her interest in astronomy. Her parents believed in educating women, but she did not meet the examination requirements, so her parents sent her to a boarding school. 

In 1965, she earned a B.S. degree in physics at the University of Glasgow. Later that same year, she worked towards her Ph.D. at Cambridge University. During her first two years, she assisted in the construction of an 81.5-megahertz radio telescope that tracked quasars which went into operation in 1967. It was Bell’s job to operate the telescope and to look over 120 meters of chart paper every four days. After several weeks Jocelyn realized how important the markings made by the telescope were and this is when she discovered the first evidence of a pulsar. A pulsar is a rapid-rotation neutron star that blasts out pulses of radiation at intervals from seconds to milliseconds. 

Jocelyn received her Ph.D. in radio astronomy in 1968 and married that same year where she got her last name, Burnell. The discovery earned the Nobel Prize for physics but she left empty-handed due to her gender. She said at the International Conference for Women in 2017 that it could be the fact that she was a Ph.D. student during the discovery in 1967. Since she did not receive the Nobel Prize, she is overlooked as a woman in the science industry.

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