• Jocelyn Bell Burnell
07 Sep | Gender Equality | Women in Leadership | Women in Science

Bell Burnell awarded Breakthrough Prize for the discovery of radio pulsars in 1967

The Prize has come more than fifty years after Bell made one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th Century. Her discovery of radio pulsars was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974, but Bell never received it...

Photo credit: PA Archive / Alamy

Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland who, as a postgraduate student in 1967, discovered the first radio pulsars, acknowledged as “one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th Century". Although the discovery was recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974, it was awarded to her thesis supervisor and to the astronomer Martin Ryle. Bell was excluded, despite having been the first to observe and precisely analyse the pulsars.

Prof Bell Burnell has finally been awarded a Breakthrough Prize for her discovery of radio pulsars, and for her scientific leadership. She has announced that the £2.3m prize money will be used to fund women, under-represented ethnic minorities and refugee students to become physics researchers, and bring new ideas to the field – afterall, the greatest discoveries in science often come from the left field.

Of her generous donation, Bell told the BBC, "I don't want or need the money myself, and it seemed to me that this was perhaps the best use I could put to it

Jocelyn Bell Burnell continues to be a great source of inspiration and motivation to women in science all over the world.