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E. Margaret Burbidge

E. Margaret BurbidgeAKA Eleanor Margaret Peachey

Born: 12-Aug-1919
Birthplace: Davenport, Cheshire, England

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Astronomer, Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Synthesis of the elements in stars

British astrophysicist E. Margaret Burbidge studied the spectra of galaxies, nuclear reactions at the center of stars, and conducted spectroscopic surveys of quasars. With nuclear physicist William A. Fowler, astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, and her husband, astronomer Geoffrey Burbidge, she developed a better explanation of how elements are formed by nuclear reactions inside stars.

In 1947, she was rejected for a Carnegie Fellowship at Mt. Wilson Observatory, as women were not allowed to work there. She later did much of her work at Mt. Wilson, signing forms in her husband's name to use the telescope, pretending to be his assistant. For several years she worked as a chemist instead of an astronomer, as rules forbidding nepotism left her unable to work in her specialty at the universities that employed her husband. She made notable contributions to the modern understanding of quasars, questioned the Big Bang theory, was the first woman to serve as Director of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and she was at the forefront of developing instrumentation for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Father: Stanley John Peachey (chemist)
Mother: Marjorie Stott Peachey (chemist)
Husband: Geoffrey Burbidge (astronomer, b. 1925, m. 2-Apr-1948, d. 2010, one daughter)
Daughter: Sarah Burbidge (b. 1956)

    University: BS, University of London (1939)
    University: PhD, University of London (1943)
    Administrator: Acting Director of Observatory, University of London (1946-51)
    Teacher: Astronomy, University of London (1946-51)
    Scholar: Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago
    Scholar: California Institute of Technology (1954-57)
    Teacher: Astronomy, University of Chicago (1957-62)
    Teacher: Chemistry, University of California at San Diego (1962-64)
    Professor: Physics, University of California at San Diego (1964-72, 74-90)
    Administrator: Director of Royal Observatory at Greenwich (1972-74)
    Administrator: Director of Center for Astrophysic and Space Sciences, University of California (1979-88)

    Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal 2005 (with Geoffrey Burbidge)
    National Medal of Science 1983
    Bruce Medal 1982
    American Association for the Advancement of Science President (1983)
    American Astronomical Society President (1976-78)
    National Academy of Sciences 1978
    Royal Society
    Naturalized US Citizen 1977
    English Ancestry
    Asteroid Namesake 5490 Burbridge

Author of books:
Quasi-Stellar Objects (1967, with Geoffrey Burbidge)
The Masses of Galaxies (1975, with Geoffrey Burbidge)


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