Jocelyn Bell Burnell receives highest accolade from RAS

8 January 2021

Headshot of Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Jocelyn Bell Burnell from the Department of Physics at Oxford has been awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s highest honour, the Gold Medal 2021. The medal recognises her extraordinary achievements and has been awarded not only for her personal research but also for her contributions to the field of astronomy generally.

In 1967, she co-discovered the first pulsar and in doing so, opened up a whole new discipline within astronomy. She has worked at leading institutions throughout her career from serving as a project manager for the construction of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope to Head of Department at the Open University. She has also served terms as President of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Jocelyn is a world-leading science communicator and is an unwavering advocate for widening participation. She is one of the founders of the Athena SWAN initiative that addresses gender inequality in higher education and research and is committed to creating transformative educational and research opportunities for under-represented minorities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

‘I am indeed honoured to join an illustrious list of recipients of this medal, including our own Professor Carole Jordan,’ comments Jocelyn.

Professor Ian Shipsey is head of the Department of Physics at Oxford: ‘Jocelyn is an extraordinarily accomplished physicist, a champion of diversity, and a role model for us all. She is a force of nature, a national, and indeed, global treasure. We are incredibly proud of her achievements as recognised by so many awards, and now by the Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society. It is a privilege that Jocelyn is our colleague in the Department of Physics here at Oxford.’

Former recipients of the Gold Medal include Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Arthur Eddington and Stephen Hawking.

Image courtesy of the Royal Society of Edinburgh