E. Margaret Burbidge, Ph, D. entered the field of astronomy in the 1940s when it had virtually no women, and she worked to become world renown for her work on the chemical composition of stars. Currently Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Diego, she is the recipient of extensive honors, and contributor of over 370 research articles in astronomy. Professor Burbidge’s exceptional courage, intelligence, and grace enabled her to open many doors for women in the sciences. Since receiving her Ph.D. in Astronomy at the University of London, Margaret Burbidge has received 12 honorary degrees and has received numerous honors, most notably: elected Fellow, Royal Society of London (1964), elected member, National Academy of Sciences (1978), and recipient of the President’s National Medal of Science (1984). She was one of four distinguished authors of the cosmogonic contribution which was quoted by the Nobel Committee for physics as the basis for awarding the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics to one of her co-authors.
She was Director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory from 1972-1973 and Director of the UCSD Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences from 1979-1988. In 2001, she was honored in an appreciation luncheon hosted by the American Astronomical Society Committee on the Status of Women (AASCSWA). The luncheon was attended by world leaders in the field to honor her work towards ending discrimination against women in astronomy. She has taught at all university levels, from freshman seminars to advanced astrophysics courses. She is a revered teacher and has been a critical role model for many young astronomers. “By personal example, she showed me early in my career that a woman could be an eminent scientist, have a successful family life, and accomplish all these with grace and style, “ said Professor Anneila Sargent (Caltech). “For all of us she has been the quintessential role model.
Her successes were often hard-won but they have changed the face of American astronomy. Thanks to her influence, women can observe at any American observatory…Margaret has been a pioneer all her life, as a scientist and as a woman scientist.”