Jocelyn Bell Burnell donates prize money

Jocelyn Bell Burnell donates £2.3 million science award winnings to fund under-represented students in physics

Quaker Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the leading astrophysicist, made headlines this month when she donated her winnings for a major science award to under-represented students.

The visiting professor at Oxford, who was born in Northern Ireland and studied at Glasgow and Cambridge universities, was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the discovery of pulsars and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community.

The $3 million (£2.3 million) sum will go to fund women, under-represented ethnic minority and refugee students to become physics researchers.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell said that ‘minority folk bring a fresh angle on things… a lot of breakthroughs come from left field’.

She also said: ‘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.’

She will be presented with the award at a Silicon Valley gala in November.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell famously missed out on winning the Nobel Prize in 1974, despite being the first to spot and chart the pulsars, as ‘unusual signals’ in the sky. The prize went to her male collaborators instead.

Speaking on the Radio Four Today programme, she said she was not angry about being overlooked.

However, she told the Belfast Telegraph in July 2015 that back in 1974 photographers had asked her to ‘unbutton my blouse lower, whilst journalists wanted to know my vital statistics and whether I was taller than princess Margaret’.

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