Elizabeth Griffin

Visiting Astronomer
Ph.D., 1966, Cambridge
Phone: +1 250-363-0031
E-mail: Elizabeth [dot] Griffin [at] nrc [dot] ca
Personal Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Zodiac
Areas of Interest: zeta Aurigae binaries, digitizing historic data
Elizabeth Griffin was raised and educated in the UK, obtaining a BSc in Astronomy at the University of London in 1963 and a PhD in astrophysics at the University of Cambridge in 1966. Together with her husband and fellow astronomer, Roger Griffin, she obtained and analysed photographic spectra of bright stars, making numerous observing visits to Mount Wilson (USA) and later to Calar Alto (Spain). A collaboration into unscrambling and interpreting the spectra of composite-spectrum binaries (still ongoing, since 1981) led to discoveries and developments in the eclipsing sub-class, the so-called zeta Aurigae binaries (also still ongoing) and to a new chapter in her observing experience when she made her first discovery of such a system in 1986 with the DAO 48-inch. Having unfortunately been caught in Cambridge’s seemingly misogynistic attitudes of the 1960s and denied a staff position on the grounds that she “was married, wasn’t starving, and didn’t need a job”, and “would soon be stopping anyway to raise children”, Elizabeth limped through a career on short-term contract funding until 1994, when the supply became exhausted.

Moving to Oxford for 8 years as a visitor was no better, but an opportunity to research the Earth’s ozone through analyses of UV stellar spectra, in collaboration with York University Toronto, enabled her to emigrate to Canada – and to become a Canadian citizen. Working still on binary systems, she also champions digitizing historic data to access the scientific content (running an IAU Working Group to that effect), and also runs a Task Group of CODATA on “Data At Risk”, in which the focus is the importance of rescuing and re-using unique historic data in *all* sciences. A keen environmentalist, Elizabeth practices what she preaches, using her bicycle for daily transportation, raising her own food in a large home-built organic garden, and using wood culled from a large forest area for both heating and cooking.