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E. Margaret Burbidge

Additional Information

Some Important Contributions:

  • "Synthesis of the Elements in Stars," Rev. Mod. Phys., 29: 547 (1957), with G.R. Burbidge, W.A. Fowler, and F. Hoyle.
"Burbidge, Burbidge, Fowler, and Hoyle combined what we would now call fragmentary evidence from nuclear physics, stellar evolution and the abundances of elements and isotopes in the solar system as well as a few stars into a synthesis of remarkable ingenuity. Their review provided a foundation for forty years of research in all of the aspects of low energy nuclear experiments and theory, stellar modeling over a wide range of mass and composition, and abundance studies of many hundreds of stars, many of which have shown distinct evidence of the processes suggested by B2FH." -- See "Synthesis of the elements in stars: forty years of progress." by G. Wallerstein, et al. Rev. Mod. Phys. 69:995 (1997).

  • Additional important publications chosen and annotated by Professor Burbidge.
    • "The Rotation, Mass Distribution and Mass of NGC 5055," Astrophys. J 131:243 (1960)
    I was the first person to use the long-slit method of measuring spectroscopically the rotations of galaxies (at McDonald Observatory, then run by U. Chicago). We developed formulae for deriving the masses and mass-to-light ratios.
    • "The Masses of Galaxies", in Galaxies and the Universe, Vol IX of Stars and Stellar Systems, U. Chicago Press, 1975, with G. Burbidge.
    Collection of our results on galaxies over several years.

    • "Redshift of OQ 172"  Nature 243:336 (1973), with Wampler, Robinson, Baldwin.
    Held the record for the largest QSO redshift for many years; was listed for many years in the Guinness Book of Records.
    • "Operation of the Faint Object Spectrograph," Proc. SPIE 445:410 (1984), with Harms, Beaver, et al.
    I was at Goddard Space Flight Center when the first ultraviolet spectrum of a quasar (UM 675) was obtained with the Faint Object Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope - published in Astrophys. J. Letters,377, L1, 1991.We identified the highly ionised element Neon VIII from a line we measured at 2417 angstroms (the rest wavelength being 770 angstroms).  Our whole team (led at that time by myself)  co-authored the paper. My American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science Presidential Address, described the results from the Voyagers and the Viking Lander on Mars, and my view of some of the dangers facing the world (environment, nuclear proliferation, etc.).


    • "Quasi-Stellar Objects", San Fransisco, 1967, with G. Burbidge, W.H.Freeman
    Since I was one of the first people to measure ANY spectroscopic dataon QSOs, including redshifts,  and Geoffrey and I put my data together with the physical analysis of the data and gathered our work together into the 1967 book, this book remained the standard text on quasars   for some 20 years.   It contains many so-called discoveries on the nature of quasars.
    • "Observations of QSOs which are Critical for Cosmology", in "The Universe at Large: Key Issues in Astronomy and Cosmology," ed. Guido Munch, Antonio Mampaso, Francisco Sanchez, Cambridge U. Press, 1997.


    Helen Warner Prize, American Astronomical Society with Geoffrey Burbidge 1959
    Fellow, Royal Society of London 1964 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1970
    Elected to National Academy of Sciences 1978
    President, American Astronomical Society 1976-78
    Bruce Medal, Astronomical Society Pacific 1982
    National Medal of Science 1984 (AMWS 1992-93 states that she recieved this award in 1985)
    Russell Prize 1984
    Albert Einstein World Award of Science Medal 1988


    1946-51 Assistant Director and Acting Director, The University of London Observatory
    1954-57 Research Fellow, California Institute of Technology
    1959-62 Associate Professor, University of Chicago
    1962-64 Associate Professor, University of California, San Diego
    1964-90 Professor, University of California, San Diego
    1990 - present Professor emeritus, University of California, San Diego
    1972-73 Director, Royal Greenwich Observatory, England (on leave from UCSD)
    1979-88 Director, University of California Center for Astrophysic and Space Sciences


    B.Sc. University of London 1939
    Ph.D. University of London 1943

    Sources and References consulted:

    E. Margaret Burbidge, [1EE N20], [17 MWR2], [s1974tg], [s1981vcr], [4 AMWS]

    Further reading:

    • An autobiographical account which appeared as "Watcher of the Skies," Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 32:1-36 (1994)
    • "E. Margaret Burbidge, President-Elect" written by Vera Rubin on the occasion of Burbidge's election as President of American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    Additional Information/Comments:

    E. Margaret Burbidge remembers introducing Vera Rubin to studies of velocity fields of galaxie by the long-slit method in work they did together at UC San Diego in 1964.  Published work: "A study of the velocity field in M82 and its bearing on explosive phenomena in that galaxy." E. M. Burbidge, G. R. Burbidge, and V. C. Rubin Astrophys. J.(USA) 140: 942 (1964).

    Burbidge is married to the astronomer Geoffrey R. Burbidge.

    Field Editor:

    Professor Ferdinand Coroniti

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    latest revision {4/30/97 mjw} 3/16/01 nb