Quaker scientist and writer at the Hay Festival

Two Friends spoke at the Hay Festival this year - scientist Jocelyn Bell Burnell and author Sally Nicholls

Two Quakers spoke at the Hay Festival last month: leading scientist Jocelyn Bell Burnell and novelist Sally Nicholls described how their Quaker faith has informed their lives and work.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, talked to journalist Rosie Boycott on 28 May about how her scientific discoveries sit with her Quakerism.

The Northern Irish scientist, who discovered pulsars in 1967, said that as a child her Quaker community was ‘very scared of science because it threatened the Bible’ but since ‘has changed shape to fit around the science’.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell studied at the University of Glasgow and then at the University of Cambridge, on her PhD, where her work on pulsars contributed towards the award of a Nobel Prize for her supervisor, Antony Hewish, and the astronomer Martin Ryle. As a research student, she was not included in the prize, despite being the first to precisely record and analyse the pulsars.

The festival also featured talks by Sally Nicholls, whose book Things a Bright Girl Can Do tells the story of three young women’s fight for women’s suffrage.

Sally Nicholls, who grew up in a Quaker background in Stockton-on-Tees, spoke on 30 May with authors M A Bennett and Will Hill to Chelsey Pippin. She was also part of a pre-award panel of authors featuring on the Young Adult Book Prize 2018 shortlist. 

Sally Nicholls previously told the Friend that she ‘took the decision’ to be a writer ‘to a Quaker Meeting’.

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