Jocelyn Bell Burnell wins President’s Medal of the Institute of Physics

Photograph of Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Roy Sambles
Medal ceremony: Jocelyn Bell Burnell accepts the President’s Medal from Roy Sambles

The astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been awarded the President’s Medal of the Institute of Physics (IOP) “for her outstanding contributions to physics through pioneering research in astronomy, most notably the discovery of the first pulsars, and through her unparalleled record of leadership within the community”. The award, which is given at the discretion of the IOP president, was presented yesterday in Birmingham at the International Conference on Women in Physics.

While presenting the award, IOP president Roy Sambles said: “Jocelyn is a groundbreaking researcher, an inspirational leader within our community and a distinguished ambassador for physics – particularly for widening participation.”

PhD breakthrough

While a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, Bell Burnell discovered the first four pulsars – an achievement that contributed to the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Physics to Antony Hewish and Martin Ryle in 1974. Controversially, Bell Burnell did not share in that prize.

In addition to her distinguished career as a researcher, Bell Burnell has served as president of the IOP and the Royal Astronomical Society, and is currently president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She also played an instrumental role in founding the Athena SWAN Charter, which was established in 2005 to advance the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.


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