Pioneering Astronomer Vera Rubin Dies

She overcame sexist barriers to discover dark matter
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 27, 2016 12:31 AM CST
In this image taken in the 1970s and provided by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Vera Rubin uses a measuring engine.   (Carnegie Institution of Washington)

(Newser) – Vera Rubin, a pioneering astronomer who helped find powerful evidence of dark matter, has died, her son said Monday. She was 88. Rubin's scientific achievements earned her numerous awards and honors, including a National Medal of Science presented by President Bill Clinton in 1993 "for her pioneering research programs in observational cosmology." She also became the second female astronomer to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. "It goes without saying that, as a woman scientist, Vera Rubin had to overcome a number of barriers along the way," California Institute of Technology physicist Sean Carroll tweeted Monday. Rubin's interest in astronomy began as a young girl and grew with the involvement of her father, Philip Cooper, an electrical engineer who helped her build a telescope and took her to meetings of amateur astronomers, the AP reports.

Rubin was the only astronomy major to graduate from Vassar College in 1948. When she sought to enroll as a graduate student at Princeton, she learned women were not allowed in the university's graduate astronomy program, so she instead earned her master's degree from Cornell University. Rubin earned her doctorate from Georgetown University, where she later worked as a faculty member for several years before working at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, a nonprofit scientific research center. During her career, Rubin examined more than 200 galaxies. "Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't good enough," she tweeted in February. "My science teacher once told me I wasn't good enough for science and look at me now." She was "a national treasure as an accomplished astronomer," said Matthew Scott, president of the Carnegie Institution. (Read more astronomy stories.)

My Take on This Story
Show results  |