The Rolex Awards for Enterprise
Dr Margaret Burbidge was one of the most influential personalities in the fight to end discrimination of women in astronomy, breaking gender barriers throughout her career.
From 1951 to 1953, Dr Burbidge was at the Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago, with a fellowship from the International Astronomical Union. It was here that she became interested in stars with magnetic fields, which showed anomalously strong lines of heavy elements. On a visit to Britain, there began an association with Dr Fred Hoyle, and, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, she and her husband worked with him to produce the paper that incorporated Hoyle’s ideas on the origin of elements in supernovae.
From 1955 to 1957, Dr Burbidge was a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology and began work on galaxies. ln 1962, she moved to the University of California at San Diego.
ln 1972, Dr Burbidge took up the appointment (for the first time separated from that of Astronomer Royal) of director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. She was the first woman to hold this position.
Dr Burbidge and her husband were jointly awarded the Helen Warner prize in 1959 and were made fellows of the Royal Society in the 1960s. Her other honours include a number of honorary doctorates from British and American universities.
Published in 1978