I Changed Astronomy Forever. He Won the Nobel Prize for It. | 'Almost Famous' by Op-Docs


Growing up in a Quaker household, Jocelyn Bell Burnell was raised to believe that she had as much right to an education as anyone else. But as a girl in the 1940s in Northern Ireland, her enthusiasm for the sciences was met with hostility from teachers and male students. Undeterred, she went on to study radio astronomy at Glasgow University, where she was the only woman in many of her classes.

In 1967, Burnell made a discovery that altered our perception of the universe. As a Ph.D. student at Cambridge University assisting the astronomer Anthony Hewish, she discovered pulsars — compact, spinning celestial objects that give off beams of radiation, like cosmic lighthouses. (A visualization of some early pulsar data is immortalized as the album art for Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures.”)

But as Ben Proudfoot’s “The Silent Pulse of the Universe” shows, the world wasn’t yet ready to accept that a breakthrough in astrophysics could have come from a young woman.

See more of “Almost Famous:” https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4CGYNsoW2iALgt6KRyVQYSEoNFTaHKzo

Director: Ben Proudfoot
Editor: Mónica Salazar
Featuring: Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Producers: Elizabeth Brooke, Abby Lynn Kang Davis, Gabriel Berk Godoi, Ben Proudfoot, Brandon Somerhalder, Sarah Stewart
Cinematographer: Tom Welsh
Original Score Composed and Orchestrated by: Nicholas Jacobson-Larson
Co-Producer: Jeremy Lambert
Supervising Sound Editor and Re-Recording Mixer: Sean Higgins
Colorist: Stephen Derluguian
Post Production Supervisor: Dillon Brown
Post Production Coordinator: Laura Carlson
Assistant Editor: Cody Wilson
Sound Designer: Tom Boykin
Second Unit Director: Mónica Salazar
Second Unit Cinematographer: Haley Watson
Scoring Mixer: Brad Haehnel
Musicians: Garth Neustadter, Nicholas Jacobson-Larson, Erik Kertes
Story Reported By: Sarah Stewart
Consulting Cinematographer: Brandon Somerhalder

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Op-Docs is the New York Times’ award-winning series of short documentaries by independent filmmakers. Learn more about Op-Docs and how to submit to the series. Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@NYTopinion).


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