WTMA Distinguished Lectureship in Science
March 03, 2015
Bell Burnell will speak on “Why (and how) Pluto is No More a Planet” at 2 p.m. and then “The Last and the Next 100 Years in Astronomy” at 8 p.m. March 31 in the University Center’s C.J. Davidson Conference Center. Both lectures are open free to the public.
Also a professorial fellow in physics at Oxford University’s Mansfield College, Bell Burnell has been a leader in her field since 1967 when her work contributed to the discovery of pulsars (rotating neutron stars) while pursuing her thesis as a graduate student at England’s Cambridge University. Her thesis advisor, Antony Hewish, and co-researcher Martin Ryle received the 1974 Nobel Prize for Physics for this discovery, which opened up a new branch of astrophysics and is considered by many as the greatest astronomical discovery of the 20th century.
For her continuing research, Bell Burnell has used ground-based radio telescopes, as well as telescopes mounted on satellites, flown on high-altitude balloons and launched on sounding rockets into space. She is also well-known for her efforts toward the public understanding of science. Much in demand as a speaker and broadcaster, she gives upwards of 40 public outreach lectures every year. She is one of the UK’s most prominent female scientists and regularly campaigns to improve the status and number of women in professional and academic posts in the fields of physics and astronomy.
A native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Bell Burnell discovered astronomy through books belonging to her father, an architect who helped design the Armagh Planetarium. She attended Lurgan College, but, like the other girls, was not allowed to study science until her parents and others protested the school’s policy. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Glasgow and her Ph.D. from Cambridge University.
A lifelong academic and researcher, Bell Burnell has worked at the University of Southampton, University College London, the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, the Open University and University of Bath. She has also served as a visiting professor at Princeton University.
Additionally, she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and a Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. She has served as president of the United Kingdom’s (UK) Royal Astronomical Society and was the first female president of the UK/Ireland Institute of Physics. In 2014, she was named the first female president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Though she did not share in the 1974 Nobel Prize, Bell Burnell has been honored by many other organizations. Her numerous awards include the Faraday Medal of the Royal Society of London, the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize of the Center for Theoretical Studies in Miami, the Albert Michelson Medal of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, the Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize of the American Astronomical Society and the Herschel Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. She has also been awarded more than 20 honorary degrees from universities in England, Scotland, Ireland and the U.S.
In 2010, Bell Burnell was featured in the BBC documentary series “Beautiful Minds” about notable British scientists, and in 2013 was named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the UK by the Woman’s Hour BBC radio news magazine. In 1999, she was awarded the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and was promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2007.
The WTMA Lectureship honors Dr. Roy E. Moon, a longtime San Angelo obstetrician and gynecologist, who died in 1976. He practiced for 28 years with Clinic Hospital Medical Associates, now West Texas Medical Associates. The lectureship was established in 1976 and is underwritten by a grant to ASU from the members of WTMA.
Each year, the lectureship brings a scientist of national prominence to ASU for public lectures, colloquia and informal discussions.
The selection committee is chaired by Dr. Paul Swets, dean of the ASU College of Arts and Sciences, and includes Dr. David Bixler, chair of the Physics and Geosciences Department; Dr. Crosby Jones, professor of biology; Dr. John Osterhout, chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department; WTMA physicians Dr. Kelly Hallmark, Dr. Colleen Heartsill and Dr. Joe Wilkinson; and retired physician Dr. Fazlur Rahman.
For more information, call the ASU College of Arts and Sciences at 325-486-6829.