Jocelyn Bell Burnell

I once again have a brief, but heartfelt, post to honor Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.

The first I heard of Jocelyn Bell Burnell was good reports of her as clerk of London Yearly Meeting. And then in 2000, I got to hear her speak at the annual Gathering of Friends General Conference. That is when I learned of her scientific accomplishments as an astrophysicist.

Burnell (then Bell), as a postgraduate student, discovered pulsars. As a student (and, I believe, as a woman), she was not included in the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics that was awarded to her supervisor, Antony Hewish.

In Burnell’s address to Friends, several things particularly struck me: her generosity of spirit, tested by grief; her embrace of both science and spirit; and her vivid cosmological description of us (and everything around us) as being made of stardust.