Born on 27 January 1941, Beatrice Tinsley was an astronomer and cosmologist who made fundamental contributions to our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution. She was born in Chester, England, but grew up in New Zealand and studied math and physics at Canterbury University. She married fellow physics student Brian Tinsley in 1961, and the couple moved to the US in 1963 when Brian accepted an appointment at the University of Texas at Dallas. As a married woman with career aspirations, Beatrice struggled against gender bias in the male-dominated field of astronomy. Despite earning a PhD in 1967 and performing groundbreaking astronomical research, Beatrice was never able to secure a professorship at UT Dallas. In 1975 Beatrice divorced Brian and took a position at Yale University, where she became the school’s first female astronomy professor in 1978. Among Tinsley’s many achievements was her synthesis of vast amounts of newly generated space telescope data to model galaxies and chart how they evolve over time. Her work was cut short, however, when she died of cancer at age 40 on 23 March 1981. (You can read the Physics Today obituary written by Sandra Faber.) By that time, Tinsley had published more than 100 scientific papers and become one of the most distinguished astronomers in the US. In 1986 the American Astronomical Society created the Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize for outstanding creative contributions to astronomy or astrophysics. (Photo credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, gift of Edward Hill)
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27 January 2017
The astronomer’s important work on galaxy evolution led to the establishment of a prominent astronomy prize awarded in her name.
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