Beatrice Muriel Hill Tinsley, astronomer and teacher, was born on January 27, 1941, in Chester, England, the daughter of Edward O. E. and Jean (Morton) Hill. The family migrated to New Zealand when she was five and eventually settled in New Plymouth, where she was educated. She earned a B.S. degree in physics from the University of Canterbury in 1961 and married Brian A. Tinsley, a fellow student, the same year. In 1963 she finished her M.S. at the University of Canterbury and was awarded its Haydon Prize for physics. Shortly afterward the Tinsleys moved to Texas, where Brian Tinsley had accepted a position at the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies (now the University of Texas at Dallas). The following year, Beatrice Tinsley enrolled in the Astronomy Department at the University of Texas at Austin, which awarded her a Ph.D. in 1967. Between 1968 and 1974 she devoted herself to raising an adopted son and daughter and undertook a frustrating search for permanent academic employment near her family in Dallas. She supplemented her tenuous position as a visiting scientist at the University of Texas at Dallas with temporary research and teaching appointments at the Hale and Lick observatories in California, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, and the University of Texas at Austin. She published numerous papers on stellar populations, the chemical evolution of galaxies, the origins of various types of supernovae, and the problems of cosmological measurement. She achieved international renown as a cosmologist, was awarded the Annie Cannon Prize in Astronomy in 1974, and was invited to lecture at American and European universities, including Cornell, the University of Chicago, Yale, and Cambridge.
In 1975, after the University of Texas at Dallas declined to appoint her to head the new astronomy department she had designed and her marriage ended in divorce, she accepted an appointment as associate professor of astronomy at Yale University. Her research there concentrated on stellar evolution, star formation, and extragalactic astronomy. She was promoted to full professor in 1978 and served concurrently as director of graduate studies in the Astronomy Department. She lectured in England, Italy, Switzerland, and France, and attended conferences in West Germany, Poland, Estonia, and Australia. Tinsley published nearly 100 scientific papers and was internationally recognized for her original contributions to the theory of galactic evolution and her influence on modern cosmological thought. She died of cancer in New Haven, Connecticut, on March 23, 1981. In 1984 the University of Texas at Austin endowed a $220,000 visiting professorship in her name. In 1986 the American Astronomical Society established the Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize "to recognize an outstanding research contribution to astronomy or astrophysics of an exceptionally creative or innovative character."