R.I.P. Margaret Burbidge (1919-2020)

I just heard via Twitter that Margaret Burbidge has passed away at the age of 100. I send my condolences to her friends, colleagues and family.

Margaret Burbidge will perhaps be best remembered as the first author anniversary of the classic work of Burbidge, Burbidge, Fowler and Hoyle in 1957 (a paper usually referred to as B2FH after the initials of its authors). It’s such an important contribution, in fact, that it has its own wikipedia page.

One of the interesting astronomical things I’ve acquired over the years is a preprint of the B2FH paper. Younger readers will probably not realize that preprints were not always produced in the electronic form they are today. We all used to make large numbers of these and post them at great expense to (potentially) interested colleagues before publication in order to get comments. In the age of the internet people don’t really bother to make hard copies of preprints for distribution any more.

Anyway, here’s a snap of it.

Sadly all of the authors have now passed away Margaret Burbidge did much more than that paper, of course. She made important contributions over a wide range of topics in astrophysics and will be greatly missed.

Rest in peace, Margaret Burbidge (1919-2020)

20 Responses to “R.I.P. Margaret Burbidge (1919-2020)”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    From Stockport, too.

    Is that an offprint or a preprint? One would need to look inside to answer that.

  2. Phillip Helbig Says:

    I guess that until recently Margaret Burbidge was the oldest living astronomer. Who now has that honour?

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Antony Hewish is 95. Any advance on that?

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        Graham Smith, a.k.a. Sir Francis Graham-Smith, who will be 97 in less than three weeks. He’s written several books, some quite recently. Like Margaret Burbidge, he was also an RGO director. He was also the Astronomer Royal.

        When I was at Jodrell Bank, every paper went to two internal referees before submission. One was chosen (randomly or via a rotation, I don’t remember) from the staff, the other was always Graham. Thus, he read every paper produced there.

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        Just recently, I learned that he and Martin Ryle married sisters. A similar constellation in rock music are Ian Paice and the late Jon Lord from Deep Purple.

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        Guido Münch will be 99 this summer. He was a doctoral student of Chandrasekhar. Among his doctoral students are Virginia Trimble, Judy Cohen, and Jim Gunn.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Paice and Lord’s wives were actually twins!

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        When I was at Jodrell Bank, I saw a television programme about two sets of identical twins who had married one another. They were a Vaudeville act for, I believe, several decades, until one of the women died.

  3. Phillip Helbig Says:

    Maybe she also held the record for the oldest Twitter user?

    I doubt that it is real, though—there are only a few tweets from a few years ago, just public stuff which anyone could tweet. Retweeting Gamow sort of gives it away.

  4. Phillip Helbig Says:

    I don’t seem to be able to find any sort of official announcement. Do you have a link?

  5. Simon Kemp Says:

    We’ve lost famous people from a range of fields today. Honor Blackman, the first Avengers girl, died aged 94, and Peter Walker, Glamorgan and England cricket, and later more famous for 20+ years as a BBC commentator and presenter, died aged 84

    • Phillip Helbig Says:

      The older we get, the more we shall notice people whom we have known die, until we ourselves do so. 😪

  6. Phillip Helbig Says:

    I realize that major news sources have obituaries on file which are updated slightly before being printed*, but I find the following passage a bit strange:

    “George Fuller, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of California, San Diego, where Dr. Burbidge taught for many years, said in an interview for this obituary in 2017.”

    * This led to folk fiddler Dave Swarbrick to quip “Not the first time I’ve died in Coventry” while autographing his own premature obituary.

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