Jocelyn Bell Burnell was born on July 15, 1943 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK. Her father was an architect for the Armagh Observatory, where Jocelyn spent much time as a child. At a young age she read a number of books on astronomy and her interest in the subject was encouraged by the staff of the Armagh Observatory. She attended Lurgan College and obtained a Physics degree at Glasgow University, Scotland in 1965. In 1969 completed her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, where under the supervision of Antony Hewish, she also constructed and operated an 81.5 megahertz radio telescope. She studied interplanetary scintillation of compact radio sources.
In 1967 Bell, while analyzing literally miles of print-outs from the telescope, noted a few unusual signals which she termed as “scruff”. These “bits of scruff” seemed to indicate radio signals too fast and regular to come from quasars. Both Jocelyn and Hewish ruled out orbiting satellites, French television signals, radar, finally even “little green men.” Looking back at some papers in theoretical physics, they determined that these signals must have emerged from rapidly spinning, super-dense, collapsed stars. The media named these as collapsed stars pulsars and published the story.