Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge

Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge


Date of Birth
September 24, 1925
Date of Death
January 26, 2010

Geoff Burbidge was born in England and educated at the University of Bristol and University College, London, where he earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1951. He said that he got into astronomy by marrying an astronomer. He worked at Harvard UniversityYerkes ObservatoryCambridge UniversityMt. Wilson & Palomar Observatories, and the California Institute of Technology, and he was at the University of California, San Diego from 1962 until his death, aside from six years (1978-84) as director of the Kitt Peak National Observatory. In 1957 he, Margaret BurbidgeWilliam A. Fowler, and Fred Hoyle showed how all of the elements except the very lightest are produced by nuclear reactions in stellar interiors. He did extensive research into the physics of non-thermal radiation processes. He contributed to our knowledge of structures and masses of galaxies and of the physics and structure of quasars. He served from 1974-2004 as editor of the Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics. He was a gadfly to cosmologists, frequently challenging the prevailing big bang models. In 2000, long after nearly all cosmologists had accepted the evidence for an evolving universe, he, Fred Hoyle, and N.V. Narlikar expressed continued support for a (quasi) steady state universe.

Personal Web Page


Presentation of Bruce medal

Filippenko, Alexei V., Mercury 28, 3, 5 (1999).

Other awards

American Astronomical Society, Helen Warner Prize, 1959 (with Margaret Burbidge)
Indian National Science Academy, Vainu Bappu Memorial Award, 1989.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Jansky Prize, 1985.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 2005 (with Margaret Burbidge).

Some offices held

Astronomical Society of the Pacific, President, 1974-76.

Biographical materials

Bonnet-Bidaud, Jean-Marc, “Geoffrey Burbidge: L’art de la critique,” Ciel & Espace325, 32-36 (1997) [in French].
Burbidge, Geoffrey, “An Accidental Career,” Annual Reviews of Astronomy & Astrophysics 45, 1-41 (2007)
Robinson, Leif J., “Geoffrey Burbidge: KPNO’s Man at the Top,” Sky & Telescope 66, 195 (1983).


Anonymous, The Telegraph, 25 March 2010.
Faulkner, John, The Guardian, 18 February 2010.
Gonzalez, Blanca, San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 January 2010.
Maugh II, Thomas H., Los Angeles Times, 31 January 2010.
McDonald, Kim, University of California, San Diego, 28 January 2010.
Narlikar, Jayant V., Physics Today 63 (10), 65-66 (2010).
Trimble, Virginia, Astronomy & Geophysics 51, 2.37-2.38 (2010).
Wolfe, Arthur, PASP 122, 1255-57 (2010).
Wolfe, Arthur, Bull. Am. Astron. Soc. 43, 005 (2011).


AIP Center for History of Physics (several)
Caltech Archives (several)
Clemson University Photo Archive in Nuclear Astrophysics
National Optical Astronomy Observatories

Named after him

Minor Planet #11753 Geoffburbidge


Papers, etc.

Burbidge’s papers are at the Mandeville Special Collections Library, University of California, San Diego. There are 19741975, and 1977 oral history interviews at the AIP Niels Bohr Library & Archives

Other References: Historical

Search ADS for works about Burbidge

Arp, Halton, Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology & Academic Science (Aperion, Montreal, 1998).

Burbidge, G., “Attempts by a Theorist to Work with Martin Ryle in the Cavendish, 1953-1955, ” Astr. Nach. 328, 432-33 (2007).

Hoyle, FredHome 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).

Robinson, Leif J., “Geoffrey Burbidge: KPNO’s Man at the Top,” Sky & Telescope 66, 195 (1983)., An Interview With Geoffrey Burbidge, Getting Past the Big Bang, Part 2: Alternative Views

Wallerstein, George, et al, “Synthesis of the Elements in Stars: Forty Years of Progress,” Revs. Mod. Phys. 69, 995-1084 (1997).

Other References: Scientific

Search ADS for works by Burbidge

Burbidge, E. Margaret, Geoffrey R. Burbidge, William A. Fowler, and Fred Hoyle, “Synthesis of the Elements in Stars,” Rev. Mod. Phys. 29, 547-650 (1957). [The famous B2FH paper]

Burbidge, G.R., E.M. Burbidge, & A.R. Sandage, “Evidence for Violent Events in the Nuclei of Galaxies,” Rev. Mod. Phys. 35, 947-72 (1963).

Gould, R. J. & G.R. Burbidge, “Review paper: High energy Cosmic Photons and Neutrinos,” Astronomical Observations from Space Vehicles, Proceedings from Symposium no. 23 held in Liege, Belgium, 17 to 20 August 1964. Edited by Jean-Louis Steinberg. International Astronomical Union. Symposium no. 23, (Impr. Taffin-Lefort, 1965), pp.195-225.

Burbidge, Geoffrey & Margaret BurbidgeQuasi-stellar Objects (W.H. Freeman, San Francisco, 1967).

Burbidge, G.,“The Nuclei of Galaxies,” Ann. Rev. Astron. Ap. 8, 369-460 (1970).

Burbidge, G., “Was There Really a Big Bang?” Nature 233, 36-40 (1971).

K. Brecher & G. Burbidge, “Extragalactic Cosmic Rays,” Ap.J. 174, 253-91 (1972).

Burbidge, G., “The Riddle of the Redshifts,” Mitt. Astron. Ges. 34, 19-42 (1973).

Burbidge, G.R., A.H. Crowne, & Harding E. Smith “An Optical Catalog of Quasi Stellar Objects,” Ap.J. Supp. 33, 113-88 (1977).

Burbidge, G. & A.H. Crowne, “An Optical Catalog of Radio Galaxies,” Ap.J. Supp. 40, 583-655 (1979).

Narlikar, J.V. & G.R. Burbidge, “An Empirical Approach to Cosmology,” Astrophys. & Space Sci. 74, 111-129 (1981).

Hewitt, A. & G. Burbidge, “A Revised and Updated Catalog of Quasi Stellar Objects,” Ap.J. Suppl 87, 451-947 (1993).

Burbidge, G. & F. Hoyle, “The Origin of Helium and the Other Light Elements,” Ap.J. 509, L1-L3 (1998).

Burbidge, G., F. Hoyle, & J.V. Narlikar, “A Different Approach to Cosmology,” Physics Today 52, 4, 38-44 (1999) and Albrecht, Andreas, “Reply to ‘A Different Approach to Cosmology,’” Physics Today 52, 4, 44-46 (April 1999).

Burbidge, G., F. Hoyle, & J.V. Narlikar, A Different Approach to Cosmology: From a Static Universe through the Big Bang towards Reality (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2000).

Burbidge, G. R., “The Sources of Gamma-Ray Bursts and Their Connections with QSOs and Active Galaxies,” Ap.J. 585, 112-20 (2003).

Burbidge, G.R., “Connections between Gamma-Ray Bursts, QSOs and Active Galaxies,” Nuclear Physics B Proceedings Supplements 132, 305-07 (2004).

Burbidge, Geoffrey, “The Case Against Primordial Nucleosynthesis,” in V. Hill, P. François, & F. Primas, eds., From Lithium to Uranium: Elemental Tracers of Early Cosmic Evolution, IAU Symposium Proceedings of the international Astronomical Union 228, Held in Paris, France, May 23-27, 2005 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2005), pp. 71-76.

Burbidge, G., “A Realistic Cosmological Model Based on Observations and Some Theory Developed Over the Last 90 Years,” Il Nuovo Cimento B 122, 1437-52 (2007).

Burbidge, G., “B2FH, the Cosmic Microwave Background and Cosmology,” Pubs. Astr. Soc. Australia 25, 30-35 (2008).

Narlikar, Jayant & Geoffrey Burbidge, Facts and Speculations in Cosmology (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008).

Other Works: Popularizations, History, etc.

Burbidge, Geoffrey, “Concluding Remarks,” in Douglas Gough, ed., The Scientific Legacy of Fred Hoyle (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2005), 240-43.

Burbidge, G. & E.M. Burbidge, “Obituary: Sir Fred Hoyle,” Observatory 122, 133-35 (2002).