Jocelyn Bell Burnell Kicks Ass 

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

In the late 1960s, astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered the first four known pulsars while working as a grad student. A few years after that, a Nobel Prize was awarded for this discovery, but it didn’t go to Bell Burnell. Instead, her adviser Antony Hewish was the recipient, along with another man. While Bell Burnell has always downplayed the controversy, many feel she was unjustly excluded from recognition.

Now, she’s being recognized with a Breakthrough Prize:

On Thursday, half a century after her pioneering work, it was announced that Bell Burnell will receive a $3 million Breakthrough Prize, one of the most lucrative and prestigious awards in science. The special award in fundamental physics, given for her scientific achievements and “inspiring leadership,” has only been granted three times before.

Good for her! However, the very best part of this story is what the 75-year-old Bell Burnell plans to do with the money.

“I don’t need a Porsche or Ferrari,” she said. “I don’t have an affluent lifestyle.”

Instead, the funds will go to creating scholarships for women, underrepresented minorities and refugees who want to study physics. The funds will be administered by Britain’s Institute of Physics.

Discovering pulsars is very cool, but helping other women and minorities make the next discovery is what really kicks ass.


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