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Heather Couper (1949-2020)

Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest at the unveiling of the Rattray Lecture Theatre's astronomical clock in 1989.

The University has learned with sadness of the death of Leicester alumna Dr Heather Couper CBE who did so much to popularise astronomy through her books and television appearances.

Heather graduated from Leicester in 1973 with a BSc in Astronomy and Physics. While studying, she met Nigel Henbest and the two of them set up their ‘Hencoup’ partnership to make astronomy accessible. She wrote more than 40 books and was a regular contributor to The Sky at Night, inspiring a new generation of scientists.

In 1989 Heather and Nigel were invited to the University to unveil the astronomical clock on the side of the Rattray Lecture Theatre. The University awarded Heather an Honorary Doctorate of Science in 1997 and she was made a CBE in 2007. She served on the University Court and generously donated to our Cardiovascular Research Centre campaign.

Heather and Nigel last visited the University in March 2011 to jointly present the Annual Alumni Lecture. Two years later they were part of a University of Leicester team on the Christmas edition of University Challenge.

Professor Martin Barstow, Professor of Astrophysics and Space Science in our School of Physics and Astronomy, commented: "I am deeply saddened to hear that Heather has passed away. Along with her long-time collaborator Nigel Henbest, she has had an enormous influence on the popularity of astronomy and science more generally in the UK.

“Hencoup have been a powerhouse in science communication through their books and TV programmes.

“Both Heather and Nigel remained connected to the University and were enormously supportive of our endeavours in space and astronomical research.

“They have been regular visitors and became personal friends over the years. This is a great loss for all of us, but particularly for Nigel and her family, to whom I send my deepest sympathies."

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