27 Jan 2016

NZ astronomer Beatrice Tinsley honoured by Google

11:40 am on 27 January 2016

Google is honouring one of New Zealand's greatest scientists, astronomer Beatrice Tinsley.

The global search engine has published a doodle on its search page to commemorate what would have been Dr Tinsley's 75th birthday today.

Beatrice Tinsley at Yale.

Beatrice Tinsley at Yale. Photo: Supplied

The daughter of a New Plymouth mayor, she overcame widespread professional jealousy and sexism to become professor of astronomy at Yale University before dying of cancer in 1981.

She was born in Chester, England in 1941, the middle of three sisters, and emigrated to New Zealand with her family following World War II.

The family lived first in Christchurch, and then for a longer time in New Plymouth.

While studying in Christchurch, she married physicist and university classmate Brian Tinsley - this prevented her from working at the University while he was employed there.

In 1963 the couple moved to Dallas, Texas, but she was similarly restricted there.

In 1974 she took a position as assistant professor at Yale. and worked there until her death.

Dr Tinsley calculated not just how galaxies look today, but how they would look over time, and even calculated models for different types of galaxies, without modern computers.

Listen to RNZ Concert's feature, The Stars are Comforting, on the letters of Beatrice Tinsley.