Alumna and Honorary Fellow Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for “fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community.” The Special Breakthrough prize in Fundamental Physics can be awarded by the Selection Committee at any time; this is only the fourth time that it has been awarded,
Bell Burnell, who returned to College in November 2017 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her discovery, was famously overlooked for the Nobel prize (which was awarded instead to her supervisor Anthony Hewish) – yet remains cheerful about this fact, telling The Guardian “If you get a Nobel prize you have this fantastic week and then nobody gives you anything else. If you don’t get a Nobel prize you get everything that moves. Almost every year there’s been some sort of party because I’ve got another award. That’s much more fun.”
Since her discovery, Bell Burnell has remained heavily involved in astronomy and science education more broadly. She has been President of the Royal Astronomical Society, and was also the first female President of both the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Moreover, she is actively committed to tackling gender inequality in Physics – not only was she instrumental in establishing the Athena Swan Charter, which encourages and recognises commitment to advancing gender equality in STEMM in higher education institutions, but she is also donating her $3m prize money to the Institute of Physics to fund women, underrepresented ethnic minorities and refugees to become Physics researchers.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell: a true female role model.