Explore as a

Share our content

Beatrice Tinsley

Beatrice Tinsley. Source: Alexander Turnbull LIbrary, Wellington, New Zealand. Ref: PA1-q-1058.

Astronomer (1941-1981)

The first female Professor of Astronomy at Yale University, Beatrice Tinsley moved to New Zealand from England when she was five. She thrived at school and decided to be an astrophysicist aged only 14.

Tinsley completed her Masters of Science in 1961 and married fellow Canterbury University student Brian Tinsley that same year. What she did not realise was that the marriage would prevent her from working at the university. The Tinsleys moved to the United States, where despite facing further chauvinism Beatrice completed a brilliant PhD in record time. In 1974, torn between family and commuting long distances for work, she left her husband and children to begin working at Yale University.

Tinsley was a pioneer of how galaxies evolve, grow and die, and she was able to synthesise disparate scraps of knowledge to create a whole. She proved that the universe is still evolving and changed the way we measure distances to far off galaxies.

For more information:

1. ‘NZEDGE Legends — Beatrice Tinsley, Astronomer — Scientists’, NZEDGE, 15 December 1999, http://www.nzedge.com/legends/beatrice-tinsley/.

2. ‘Beatrice Tinsley’, Wikipedia, 31 October 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Beatrice_Tinsley&oldid=808108470.

This profile is part of the series 150 Women in 150 Words that celebrates women’s contributions to expanding knowledge in New Zealand, running as part of our 150th Anniversary.