Celebrating our Citizens of Change

Dr Heather Couper CBE (1949-2020)

Citizen of Change: A shining star of astrophysics

Heather Anita Couper was a British astronomer, broadcaster and science populariser and over the years, inspired a new generation of scientists.

At the age of 16, Heather wrote to British television astronomer Patrick Moore asking if she would be able to take up a career in astronomy, and received the reply "being a girl is no problem at all"!

In 1973, she graduated from the University of Leicester with a BSc in Astronomy and Physics. It was here that she met fellow astronomy student Nigel Henbest. They formed a working partnership – Hencoup Enterprises - that focused on astronomy popularisation.

After studying astrophysics at the University of Leicester and researching clusters of galaxies at Oxford University, Heather was appointed senior planetarium lecturer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

She subsequently hosted two series on Channel 4 television – The Planets and The Stars – as well as making many TV guest appearances. On radio, Heather presented the award-winning programme Britain’s Space Race as well as the 30-part series Cosmic Quest for BBC Radio 4.

In 1984-1986 Heather served as President of the British Astronomical Association, and she was Astronomy Professor in perpetuity at Gresham College, London.

In 1994, Heather was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science at the University.

She served on the Millennium Commission, for which she was appointed a CBE in 2007. Asteroid 3922 Heather is named in her honour.


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