Perimeter Institute: She discovered pulsars. Now she’s helping women get ahead in science

Astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell co-discovered some of the most remarkable objects in the universe. She discusses her storied career — and the significance of pulsars to science
By Daniel Kitts - Published on October 24, 2018



In 1967, Jocelyn Bell Burnell co-discovered pulsars — rapidly spinning, incredibly dense neutron stars whose unusual properties have helped prove some of Albert Einstein’s theories and aided astronomers in mapping the cosmos. But seven years later, when a Nobel Prize was awarded for the discovery, Bell Burnell’s work went unrecognized.

This year, she got some much-deserved recognition in the form of a $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics — the most lucrative academic award there is. She’s using the money to help women and people from other under-represented groups pursue careers in the field.

"I feel that I made my contribution in part because I felt an outsider," Bell Burnell told "So, I think increasing diversity of the workforce actually allows all sorts of things to develop."

At 7 p.m. on Oct. 25, in a special public lecture at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, she shared stories from her illustrious career and reflected on the discovery of pulsars — and on the significance of the spinning stars to science. If you missed the lecture, you can watch a replay of it here:


TVO is streaming the entire 2018-19 series of Perimeter Institute public lectures.

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