Margaret Burbidge was born in England and educated at the University of London, where she remained until 1951. She worked at Yerkes Observatory and the California Institute of Technology before joining the faculty of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 1962. She held many administrative positions, including that of director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory and first director of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at UCSD. In 1957 she, Geoffrey R. Burbidge, William A. Fowler and Fred Hoyle showed how all of the elements except the very lightest are produced by nuclear reactions in stellar interiors. She also studied spectra of galaxies, determining their rotations, masses, and chemical composition, and she achieved particular renown for spectroscopic studies of quasars. She played a major role in developing instrumentation for the Hubble Space Telescope.
Presentation of Bruce medal
Arp, H.C. & A. Fraknoi, Mercury 11, 154 (1982).
American Astronomical Society, Helen Warner Prize, 1959 (with Geoffrey Burbidge); Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 1984.
Association pour le Développement International de l’Observatoire de Nice, ADION medal, 1987
National Science Foundation, National Medal of Science, 1983.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Karl G. Jansky Lectureship, 1977.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 2005 (with Geoffrey Burbidge).
World Cultural Council, Albert Einstein World Award of Science, 1988.
Some offices held
American Association for the Advancement of Science, President, 1983.
American Astronomical Society, President, 1976-78.
Burbidge, E.M., “Watcher of the Skies,” Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 32, 1-36 (1994).
Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics
Oleck, Joan, “E. Margaret Burbidge,” in Notable 20th Century Scientists (Gale Research, Detroit, MI, 1995), pp. 375-80.
Skuse, Benjamin, “Happy Birthday, Margaret,” Sky & Telescope, July 2019.
Warren, Rebecca Lowe in Shearer, Benjamin F. & Barbara S., eds. Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: a Biographical Dictionary (Greenwood Press, Westport, CT & London, 1997), pp. 27-32.
Boggs, Steven & Brian Maple, University of California Academic Senate.
Boksenberg, Alec, Science, 29 May 2020.
Cohen, Adam D., American Association for the Advancement of Science, 8 April 2020.
Dillon, Cynthia, University of California, San Diego, 9 April 2020.
Fox, Margalit, New York Times, 7 April 2020.
Named after her
Minor Planet #5490 Burbidge
University of California, San Diego, Margaret Burbidge Visiting Professorship of Physics and Astronomy
Most of Burbidge papers are at the UCSD Library. Papers as director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory are at the RGO Archives at the University of Cambridge. There is a 1978 oral history interview available at the AIP Niels Bohr Library & Archives, and another oral interview at the UCSD Library.
Other References: Historical
Reed, J., “A Great Woman Astronomer Leaves England Again,” Smithsonian (Jan 1974), p. 34.
Burbidge, Margaret, “Moving to Washington, the Cannon Prize, and Other Thoughts,” in The American Astronomical Society’s first century, ed. by David H. DeVorkin. (American Inst. of Physics, Washingtond, 1999), p. 146-47.
Burbidge, E. Margaret, “Modern Alchemy: Fred Hoyle and Element Building by Neutron Capture,” in Douglas Gough, ed., The Scientific Legacy of Fred Hoyle (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2005), pp. 227-239 [abstract].
Hoyle, Fred, Home is Where the Wind Blows: Chapters from a Cosmologist’s Life (University Science Books, Mill Valley, CA, 1994).
Panek, Richard, “Two Against the Big Bang,” Discover 26, 11, 48-54 (Nov 2005).
Other References: Scientific
Burbidge, Geoffrey & Margaret, Quasi-stellar Objects (W.H. Freeman, San Francisco, 1967).
Junkkarinen, Vesa T., E. Margaret Burbridge, & Harding E. Smith, “Spectrophotometry of six broad absorption line QSOs,” Ap.J. 317, 460-76 (1987).
Korista, Kirk T., et al, “Hubble Space Telescope Faint Object Spectrograph and Ground-based Observations of the Broad Absorption Line Quasar 0226-1024,” Ap.J. 401, 529-42 (1992).
Burbidge, E.M., C.M. Gutiérrez, & H. Arp, “A QSO Discovered at the Redshift of the Extended X-Ray Cluster RX J0152.7-1357,” PASP 118, 124-28 (2006).
Burbidge, E.M. & G. Burbidge, “The Redshifts of Galaxies and QSOs,” in Jean-Claude Pecker & Jayant Narlikar, eds., Current Issues in Cosmology (Cambridge Univ, Press, Cambrige, UK, 2006), pp. 17-36.
Wallerstein, George, et al, “Synthesis of the Elements in Stars: Forty Years of Progress,” Rev. Mod. Phys. 69, 995-1084 (1997).
Other Works: Popularizations, Fiction, etc.
Burbidge, M. “Adventure into Space,” Science 221, 421 (1983). [Presidential Address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science]
Burbidge, E.M., “Astronomical Challenges for the Twenty-First Century,” Technical News 11, 36-40 (1982) [abstract].