Missing the Nobel

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In 1967, Jocelyn Bell BurnelI made an astounding discovery in astronomy. I remember the story when it first broke. Her work was seized as their own by male colleagues.

They took credit and received the Nobel Prize for it.

What I didn’t realize was the extent of callous sexism she endured during graduate work in England.

As she entered her graduate classes — the only woman (or as they said “girl’) — she would be greeted by hoots, hollers, and stamping feet. It was as if a stripper had waltzed out on stage.

In time she gained enough local acclaim that the newspapers became interested. Photographers asked her to undo the top two buttons of her blouse.

Colleagues were relieved when she got married. They assumed she’d leave research and leave astronomy to them –that she’d retreat to her home and have kids.

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