Dr Heather Couper, CBE, is an international broadcaster and writer on astronomy, space and science. She studied astrophysics at both Leicester and Oxford universities, and ran the Greenwich Planetarium for five years. She now works entirely in the media.
Heather has hosted two Channel 4 series on British television, several TV programmes, and many radio shows – including the long-running Seeing Stars on BBC World Service. In 2008, she wrote and presented BBC Radio 4′s epic 30-part series Cosmic Quest, a groundbreaking overview of the history of astronomy.
She has also written over 30 books, including the critically-acclaimed Universe; Mars: The Inside Story of the Red Planet; and The History of Astronomy (the latter two with Nigel). The newest contributions from the Hencoup team are Philip’s Stargazing 2016 and The Astronomy Bible.
In 1988 Heather co-founded Pioneer Productions, which is now one of the UK’s top independent TV production companies. Many of Pioneer’s programmes have won international awards, including Heather’s classic film on lightning, Electric Skies (Banff Rockie Award for top science documentary) and Black Holes (Gold Award, New York Film and TV Festival).
After this stint of skulking behind the camera as a TV producer, Heather left Pioneer to go freelance again. Since returning to the on-screen side of the camera (and the business end of a microphone), she has presented TV programmes ranging from a celebration of Stephen Hawking’s birthday (BBC) to a documentary on the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster (Channel 4) . Her radio exploits have included several trips to Sri Lanka to interview the late Arthur C. Clarke for the BBC, and (at the other end of the spectrum!) to the Isle of Wight to make Radio 4′s Britain’s Space Race (which won Heather the Arthur C. Clarke Award – the space equivalent of the Oscars).
Heather is in demand as a leader of solar eclipse expeditions, and as a presenter on the international media circuit. Her most recent eclipse trip was to the 2010 Tahiti eclipse (others have included China, Egypt, Indonesia – and Alderney!). Her lecture tours have taken her to places as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, the US, Colombia, and China. She was Chief Guest Celebrity on the maiden voyage of P&O’s luxury cruise liner Arcadia, and – with Nigel – she has been a celebrity speaker on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 on her voyage around the Caribbean in the autumn of 2010. Heather has also given presentations on the Queen Victoria in the Mediterranean.
Away from TV and radio, Heather enjoys communicating science – particularly to adults, where the understanding of controversial issues is critical. From 1993 to 1996, she was Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College (founded in the City of London in 1597) – a post that involved giving many public talks. She is past-President of both the British Astronomical Association and the Society for Popular Astronomy.
Heather is also Astronomy columnist for The Independent newspaper, and has been a member of the Millennium Commission – where she persuaded her colleagues to spend lottery money on building science centres.
She was awarded the CBE in 2007 for ‘Services to Science’, and the International Astronomical Union has named asteroid number 3922 ‘Heather’ in her honour.
Away from all these serious bits, Heather enjoys travel, the countryside, classical music, swimming, old buildings and churches, wine and (veggie!) food.
Honours and qualifications (see also her Awards)
Just for the record, Heather’s full title is:
Prof Heather Couper CBE, BSc, DSc (Hon), DLitt (Hon), FInstP, CPhys, FRAS