Cambridge astrophysicist overlooked for Nobel prize inspiring new generation of female scientists

  • Watch our report from Liz Summers

Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking all studied at the University of Cambridge and all made remarkable contributions to science. The same is true of Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell but as a woman she has had to fight for the respect and recognition she deserves.

In 1967 Dame Jocelyn discovered a new type of star called a pulsar, one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th century, but it was her male PhD supervisor who was awarded the Nobel prize for physics in 1974.

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell Credit: Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Dame Jocelyn is a trailblazing promoter for women in science, in 2018 she won the £2.3m Breakthrough Prize and gave the money to the Institute of Physics to encourage greater diversity.

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell winning the 2018 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics Credit: Breakthrough Prize

She is set to inspire a new generation of female scientists with a free public lecture called ‘We are made of Star Stuff’ hosted by the University of Bedfordshire. 

The pandemic has pushed science to the fore with the race to develop a vaccine and women have played a pivotal role but females still make up less than a quarter of the UK's core-STEM workforce and only 17 percent of technology roles.

Zahra Tanweer, biochemistry student at the University of Bedfordshire Credit: ITV News Anglia

The best ideas from the brightest minds from all backgrounds will be needed for the post-Covid recovery, that means greater diversity in science, technology, engineering and maths. 

The free public lecture 'An evening With... Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell' takes place on Wednesday 24 March at 4pm. If you would like to register for the University of Bedfordshire event click here.