Former President of the RSE, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell PPRSE, has been awarded the Royal Irish Academy’s Cunningham Medal, and will receive the 2022 Jules Janssen Prize from the Société Astronomique de France.

The Cunningham Medal is the Royal Irish Academy’s premier award which is awarded every three years and dates back to 1796. The 2023 Cunningham Medal was awarded to Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell in recognition of her research, wide contribution to academia, public engagement and her international leadership in science.

The presentation of the medal was made at a ceremony in the Royal Irish Academy and can be watched back now.

The Société Astronomique de France (the French Astronomical Society – SAF) will award its prestigious international astronomy prize – the Jules Janssen Prize – to Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell for her scientific achievements, and the discovery of the first pulsar (CP 1919) and neutron stars.  

The medal will be presented to Professor Bell Burnell by Professor Sylvain Bouley, President of the Société astronomique de France on Saturday 24 March 2023.

The famous astronomer Jules Janssen (1824-1907), who served as SAF’s president between 1895 and 1897, created a number of awards, including the Jules Janssen Prize that has been awarded annually by SAF since 1897. 

Dame Jocelyn Bell inadvertently discovered pulsars as a doctoral candidate in radio astronomy at Cambridge, opening a new branch of astrophysics – work recognized by the awarding of a Nobel Prize to her thesis supervisor. She went on to hold numerous positions in multiple branches of astronomy, working part-time while raising a family. She is now a Visiting Scholar at the University of Oxford and Chancellor of the University of Dundee, Scotland. She was President of the Royal Astronomical Society of the United Kingdom, in 2008 became the first female President of the Institute of Physics for the United Kingdom and Ireland, and in 2014 the first female President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.