Heather Couper

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For the Canadian artist and graphic designer see Heather Cooper
Heather Anita Couper
Born (1949-06-02)June 2, 1949
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality British
Website http://www.hencoup.com/
Scientific career
Fields Astronomy

Prof Heather Anita Couper, CBE, BSc, DSc (Hon), DLitt (Hon), FInstP, CPhys, FRAS[1] (born 2 June 1949),[2] is a British astronomer who popularized astronomy in the 1980s and also the 1990s on British television, and was president of the British Astronomical Association from 1984 to 1986.

Early life

Couper was born on 2 June 1949. She is the eldest daughter of George Couper Elder Couper and Anita Couper (née Taylor). She attended St Mary's Grammar School (merged with St. Nicholas Grammar School in 1977 to become Haydon School) on Wiltshire Lane in Northwood Hills, Middlesex. In a TV tribute to Patrick Moore she read out a letter from Moore she received when she was aged 16 in which he responded to a question of hers with the comment that "being a girl" was not detrimental to a career in astronomy. She graduated from the University of Leicester with a BSc in Astronomy and Physics and did research at the Department of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, whilst a postgraduate student at Linacre College, Oxford.[3]


From 1967-9 she was a management trainee with Peter Robinson Ltd. From 1969-70, she was a research assistant at the Cambridge Observatory. She was a lecturer at Greenwich Planetarium (superseded in 2007 by the Peter Harrison Planetarium) and the Old Royal Observatory from 1977-83. She became a television presenter in 1981.

Couper has written and co-written several books on astronomy and space, many of these in collaboration with Nigel Henbest, and made many presentations for radio, television, and in public. From 1993 to 1996, she gave public lectures as professor of astronomy at Gresham College, London.

She became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1970 and of the Institute of Physics in 1999, when she also became a Chartered physicist. She was President of the British Astronomical Association in 1984-6, and of the Junior Astronomical Society (Society for Popular Astronomy) from 1987-9. She is the astronomy correspondent for The Independent newspaper.

On 2 June 1999, asteroid 3922 Heather was named in her honour.[4]


Couper along with Henbest and Stuart Carter co-founded Pioneer Productions, an independent UK TV production company creating factual programming, in 1988. Couper subsequently left Pioneer Productions in 1999 to concentrate on more general radio and TV appearances.

In 2006 she presented a two-part radio series A Brief History of Infinity for BBC World Service, produced by Heavy Entertainment. In 2007 she was appointed CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for her work on the Millennium Commission which she joined in 1994.

In 2008 she won the Sir Arthur Clarke Award with Martin Redfern for their programme Britain's Space Race on BBC Radio 4's Archive Hour. Also in 2008 she presented a 30 part x 15 minute history of Astronomy Cosmic Quest also for Radio 4.

On 12 August 2013, on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, Couper said that as a child she wanted to follow her father and train as a doctor. At the age of eight, however, while outside the house watching aircraft stacking on approach to London Heathrow, she saw a "green shooting star" in the Perseid meteor shower and from that moment wanted to become an astronomer.

Selected bibliography

Co-authored with David Pelham:

Written with Nigel Henbest:

  • Space Frontiers, Woodpecker, 1978, ISBN 0856853399
  • The Restless Universe, 1982, George Philip, ISBN 978-0540010691
  • Astronomy, 1983, Franklin Watts ISBN 978-0531046517
  • Physics, 1983, Franklin Watts, ISBN 978-0531046524
  • The Planets, 1985, Pan ISBN 0330290827
  • The Sun (Space Scientist), 1986/7, Franklin Watts ISBN 0863132693 UK ISBN 0-531-10055-3 US
  • The Moon (Space Scientist), 1986/7, Franklin Watts ISBN 0863134726 UK ISBN 0-531-10266-1 US
  • Galaxies and Quasars (Space Scientist), 1986/7, Franklin Watts ISBN 0863134734 UK ISBN 0-531-10265-3 US
  • Telescopes and Observatories (Space Scientist), 1986/7, Franklin Watts ISBN 0863135277 UK ISBN 0-531-10361-7 US
  • Spaceprobes and Satellites (Space Scientist), 1986/7, Franklin Watts ISBN 0863135285 UK ISBN 0-531-10360-9 US
  • The Stars, 1988, Pan, ISBN 033030352X
  • The Space Atlas, 1992, ISBN 978-0863188299
  • How the Universe Works, 1994, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 0751300802
  • Black Holes, 1996, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 0-7513-5371-X
  • Les trous noirs, 1996, ISBN 978-2012916654
  • Le big bang, 1997, ISBN 978-2012917866
  • Is Anybody Out There?, 1998, ISBN 978-0751356663
  • To the Ends of the Universe, 1998, ISBN 978-0751358254
  • DK Space Encyclopedia, 1999, ISBN 978-0789447081
  • L'univers, 1999, ISBN 978-2020202473
  • Universe, 1999, ISBN 978-0752217123
  • Universe, 2001, ISBN 978-0752272559
  • L'encyclopédie du ciel et de l'espace, 2001, ISBN 978-0751336412
  • Extreme Universe, 2001, ISBN 978-0752261638
  • Mars: The Inside Story of the Red Planet, 2001, ISBN 978-0747235439
  • L'encyclopédie du ciel et de l'espace, 2003, ISBN 978-2070552306
  • Atlas jeunesse du ciel et de l'espace, 2003, ISBN 978-2020125192
  • Encyclopedia of Space, 2003, ISBN 978-1405301091
  • How It Works: How the Universe Works, 2004, ISBN 978-0895775764
  • The Story of Astronomy: How the universe revealed its secrets, 2007, ISBN 978-1844035700
  • The History of Astronomy, 2007, ISBN 978-1554073252
  • The History of Astronomy, 2009, ISBN 978-1554075379
  • The Story of Astronomy: How the universe revealed its secrets, 2011, ISBN 978-1844037117
  • Philips Stargazing 2015, 2014, ISBN 978-1849073356
  • The Astronomy Bible: The Definitive Guide to the Night Sky and the Universe, 2015, ISBN 978-1770854826
  • The Astronomy Bible: (Octopus Bible Series, 2015, ISBN 978-1844038084
  • Philips Stargazing 2016, 2015, ISBN 978-1849073912
  • The Secret Life of Space, 2015, ISBN 978-1781313930

See also


  1. http://hencoup.com/heather/
  2. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1 at line 746: Argument map not defined for this variable.
  3. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1 at line 746: Argument map not defined for this variable.
  4. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1 at line 746: Argument map not defined for this variable.

External links