Career News

Jocelyn Bell Burnell Next Royal Society of Edinburgh President

3.9.2014 | Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been elected as the next president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE). She is an outstanding astrophysicist as well as a prominent science communicator. Her term will start this October, right after the Scottish independence referendum in September.
Prof. Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Bild vergrößern
Prof. Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Dame Jocelyn is best known for discovering pulsars, one of the most significant scientific achievements of the twentieth century. These rapidly spinning neutron stars are formed in supernova explosions. At the time Dame Jocelyn was a PhD student in radio astronomy at the University of Cambridge. Her supervisor Antony Hewish subsequently went on to win the 1974 Nobel Prize for Physics in recognition of the discovery, sharing it with Martin Ryle. She has been an influential campaigner in efforts to raise the number of women in professional and academic science posts. In 2013, Dame Jocelyn was named in the BBC Radio 4 'power list' of the 100 most influential women in the UK. In 2012, she chaired the group that produced the RSE's highly-regarded Tapping All Our Talents report on a Scottish strategy for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Dame Jocelyn will begin her three year tenure as RSE President in October 2014. She takes over from Sir John Arbuthnott, whose period in office has, amongst several achievements, seen the delivery of the landmark 'Enlightening the Constitutional Debate' series of events, and the development of research links with China including the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the RSE and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Commenting on the election, Sir John said, "I am delighted to welcome Dame Jocelyn as my successor. Her scientific standing, her public profile and her great breadth of experience will greatly benefit the Royal Society of Edinburgh."

Born in Northern Ireland, Dame Jocelyn graduated in Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow in 1965, then gained her PhD from Cambridge in 1969. From 1982-1991, she worked at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. She was then appointed professor of physics at the Open University and later became Dean of Science at the University of Bath (2001-04). Dame Jocelyn was President of the Royal Astronomical Society from 2002-2004, and President of the Institute of Physics from 2008-2011. She is currently visiting professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford with research interests in neutron stars, micro quasars and gamma ray bursts.

Dame Jocelyn has more than 20 honorary degrees, including one from Harvard and five from Scottish Universities. With receiving a DBE in 2007 - 'Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire' - she became a member of the order and thus a member of the British nobility. Dame Jocelyn said, "I look forward to serving the Royal Society of Edinburgh as its president from October this year. This will be an important time for Scotland as it finds its way forward following the referendum."   (© University of Oxford, AcademiaNet)

More information

Additional articles on this topic


  1. Read what our members say about AcademiaNet.

Follow us

No more excuses!

  1. Please download the brochure "No more excuses" and read more about female experts in Europe, and about AcademiaNet.


  1. Stephanie Kath-Schorr: ‘I dream of an expanded genetic alphabet’

    Professor Stephanie Kath-Schorr is passionate about nucleic acids. AcademiaNet spoke to her about her dreams for the future, both in terms of science and the further promotion and inclusion of women in academic institutions.

  2. Hydrogeologist Gudrun Massmann to be part of new Research Unit funded by DFG

    Prof Massmann will study the complex biogeochemical reactions taking place at beaches.

  3. “When you look at a neuron, you have to bow down”

    Professor Erin Schuman talks to AcademiaNet about studying the body’s most complex cells and how she became a champion of women in neuroscience.

  4. Anja Boisen awarded the Knight’s Cross by Danish Queen Margaret II

    The honour was given as a recognition of Prof. Boisen’s contribution to innovative drug delivery.

  5. Ruth Lehmann wins the 2021 Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science

    The developmental cell biologist receives the honour for her ground-breaking work on reproductive cells.