Jocelyn Bell Burnell portrait

Quaker astrophysicist one of few female scientists to have portrait on walls of the Royal Society's headquarters

Portrait of Jocelyn Bell Burnell being painted by Stephen Shankland. | Photo: Chris Scott.

A painting of the Quaker astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell has joined the portrait collection of the Royal Society. The inclusion makes her one of the few female scientists to have a portrait on the walls of the Royal Society’s Carlton House Terrace headquarters in central London. Out of 200 male portraits, only a handful are of women.

‘I’m sure that will upset a few fellows,’ she told The Guardian of her position at the top of the grand staircase. ‘It is really prominent I must say, I’m surprised at that… They only admitted women 75 years ago so it’s perhaps not surprising that there aren’t many female fellows represented. But it does need to be put right.’

Jocelyn Bell Burnell made one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the twentieth century when, as a twenty-four-year-old graduate student in 1967, she discovered a new type of star later called a pulsar. In honour of the discovery, the 1974 Nobel Prize for Physics went to her male PhD supervisor instead.

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