Life of Beatrice Tinsley

    Beatrice was an active, fun-loving child with many interests. One of her passions was music. She had access to education and academically she always obtained marks in the nineties. She married young. Beatrice as other scientific wives have done, followed her husband. Rubin describes a scientific marriage as "one-body" becoming "two-bodies" then with children "three bodies" This is overcome by a supportive husband, parents and in-laws, or spending a great percentage of your income on help. Beatrice chose the last option as she was on the other side of the world to her family.

    Beatrice's passion was astronomy but Dallas did not have a Ph. D course available. She had to travel to Austin, so for 4 days a week she was away from home. Fortunately she completed her course in two years, despite some resistance from her Ph.D. committee.

    Beatrice was a pioneer in the field of galactic evolution. She was a huge sponge soaking up all the theories and observations then combined many disciplines to put all of this into her Ph.D. thesis - a mathematical model for galactic evolution. Her dissertation was nominated as one of the top 53 most important papers for the last 100 years for the ApJ published by the AAS. It took many years for her work to be accepted. But she did not rest on her laurels. For the rest of her life she presented many key papers, pursuing her passion in the galaxies.

    Beatrice struggled for recognition and a full time paid university position. This did not daunt her - she worked from home - writing and reading. She had ambition, determination and enthusiasm. Perhaps this time at home gave her the time to think. She had no-one dictating to her what her line of research should be. She overcame her isolation by attending many astronomical meetings all over the world. This time at home also allowed her time for charity work in the community and to volunteer for work in ZPG. She was a successful lecturer and speaker all over the world

    Beatrice's greatest conflict was in finding the balance between the love for her family and astronomy. This struggle led to divorce and separation from her children. Beatrice buried herself in work.

    Beatrice was a valued friend to her colleagues. She was kind and generous, and thoughtful of others. Fun-loving - she loved the Christmas student revues. She was a mentor to her students at Yale and wrote encouraging letters to students everywhere. But she was strong-willed and forthright in her opinions.

    Beatrice, with her close friend and colleague Richard Larson, convened a Galactic Evolution Conference at Yale in 1977. This allowed observers to be aware of the different evolutionary paths a galaxy could take. Also she was willing to be the editor of a the conference as well as a Scientific American article which put her briefly in the public eye. "No-one likes an editor",. One of her lasting influences is the writing style of her papers - clear and succinct. She was a clearing house for pre-prints and discussed ideas of her colleagues.

    What I found interesting is that the chapter that Beatrice wrote for the "Fundamentals of Cosmic Physics" published in 1980 can still be found in a reference text book list for astronomy students. For example, The Chemical Evolution of Galaxies, cites the chapter as a reference in 1996. Nearly twenty years after the book was written her work is still current and of value.

    Work that is important is cited often and for a long time. A count of Beatrice Tinsley's citations shows that her scientific peers (that most savaging jury) have obviously judged her work important indeed.

    At a time when Beatrice was finding peace and had the companionship of Richard, she had the news of her melanoma. Shortly after this sad news, she finally obtained a tenured position at Yale. She was to live only another 3 years.

    Beatrice was a great mind, a genius. This is evidenced by the Tinsley Medal named in her honour - "exceptionally creative or innovative character." I doubt if even today's internet could have kept up with the speed of her thinking and her need for communication with her peers.

    Beatrice's last paper was published 1 Oct 1981 (Received 4 December 1980 Accepted 3 April 1981) after she had died. "Evolutionary Synthesis of the Stellar Population in Elliptical Galaxies III Detailed Optical Spectra." ApJ 249 48-67. Editors Note re Author Beatrice M. Tinsley - "Deceased 1981 March 23 Her publications are coming to an end, but her brilliant work will be with us always. - Editor."

    Beatrice described her work to her father as "doing what I like best, working out new things and writing papers". At this she more than succeeded, she excelled.

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Date Created 1 June 2000
Last Updated 14 June 2000