January 10: Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Friday, January 10th, 2020

19:00 – 21:00

Oxford Quaker Meeting House

Political scientist and historian Iain McLean talks to astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell about life, the universe, and some other things in this Quaker conversation. Open to the public, all are welcome. Refreshments will be on sale. This is a fundraising event for the Oxford Quaker Meeting garden room project. Cost: £10 from the Quaker Meeting House office or £11.37 via Eventbrite using the following link:


Jocelyn Bell Burnell is best known as the astrophysicist who discovered pulsars (rotating neutron stars) but did not share in the resulting Nobel Prize. She has always been remarkably un-bitter about that. Her generosity is further shown by her donation of a recent £2.3 million physics prize to the Institute of Physics to form a fund to assist female, minority, and refugee physics students. She has often spoken of her feelings of ‘outsider’ status as an Ulster Quaker doctoral student in Cambridge.

I know Jocelyn as a fellow Quaker and from her time as President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), of which I am a fellow. We worked together on projects run by the RSE and the other UK national academies to explain the issues on devolution in the nations and territories of the UK.

In our talk, I hope we will open by reflecting on ‘outsider’ status at places like Oxford and Cambridge, because that is how I felt, too, when I first arrived from Scotland. I hope we will go on, as the advert for our talk says, to discuss life, the universe, and some other things

Iain McLean