Heather Anita Couper was a British astronomer, broadcaster and science populariser. She was born on June 2, 1949 in Wallasey, Cheshire, England, and decided at age eight that she would be an astronomer.
After studying astrophysics at the University of Leicester and researching clusters of galaxies at Oxford University, Couper 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, Couper presented the award-winning programme Britain’s Space Race as well as the 30-part series Cosmic Quest for BBC Radio 4.
Couper served as President of the British Astronomical Association from 1984 to 1986, the first woman to be elected to this position. As Astronomy Professor in perpetuity at Gresham College, London, she was the first female professor in the 400-year history of the college. On her own, or in collaboration with her friend Nigel Henbest, she wrote over 40 books. They founded Hencoup Enterprises
to focus on popularising astronomy.
In 1993, Couper was invited to join the newly created Millennium Commission, as one of nine commissioners responsible for distributing money from the UK National Lottery to projects that would celebrate and commemorate the new millennium. For her work on the Millennium Commission, as well as her promotion of science to public, Couper was appointed a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2007.
Asteroid 3922 Heather is named in her honour.
Couper died at Stoke Mandeville Hospital on 19 February 2020 at the age of 70 after a short illness.
[Credit: Wikipedia, photo Daily Star]