American Philosophical Society
Member History

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1Name:  Dr. E. Margaret Burbidge
 Institution:  University of California, San Diego
 Year Elected:  1980
 Class:  1. Mathematical and Physical Sciences
 Subdivision:  101. Astronomy
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1919
 Death Date:  April 5, 2020
English-born American astronomer Eleanor Margaret Burbidge was the first woman to be appointed director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. She was at the forefront in obtaining and interpreting quasar data and made notable contributions to astrospectroscopy, radio galaxies, masses and evolution of normal galaxies, and the chemical composition of stars. Dr. Burbidge served as assistant director and acting director of the Observatory of the University of London from 1948-51. In 1955 her husband, theoretical astrophysicist Geoffrey Burbidge, obtained a Carnegie fellowship for astronomical research at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California. Because women were then ineligible for such an appointment, she chose to accept a minor research post at the California Institute of Technology. In 1957 she became Shirley Farr Fellow and, later, associate professor at Yerkes Observatory at Williams Bay, Wisconsin. She also served as research astronomer and professor of astronomy at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) before taking a leave of absence to serve as director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in 1972. Her Greenwich duties did not come with the traditional honorary title of Astronomer Royal, which instead was given to a male astronomer, in another instance of discrimination against women in the astronomical community. A longtime champion of opportunities in science for women, she refused the Annie J. Cannon Prize from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in 1972 because, as it was an award for women only, it represented for her another facet of the same discrimination. Her action led to the formation of a standing AAS committee for the status of women in astronomy. From 1979-88 Dr. Burbidge directed UCSD's Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences, where she helped develop some of the Hubble Space Telescope's original instruments. She became a professor emeritus of the university in 1990. E. Margaret Burbidge died on April 5, 2020 in San Francisco, California at the age of 100.
Election Year
1980 (1)