Celebrating Vera Rubin

By Ann Varner

Vera Rubin in 2009

On this day, July 23, in 1928, a woman who made “ground breaking observations that provided evidence for the existence of a vast amount of dark matter in the universe” was born. That woman was Vera Rubin. It is always important to celebrate our women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) and today is a great day to celebrate this great American astronomer.

Vera Rubin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died on December 25, 2016 in Princeton, New Jersey. The New York Times reported that Vera became “entranced by astronomy from watching the stars wheel past her bedroom window.”  She went to Vassar College for her undergraduate degree and graduated the sole astronomer in her class. The New York Times also states that she had hoped to go to Princeton to get her PhD but the astrophysics graduate program did not admit women. Not deterred, she went to Cornell to obtain her master’s degree and then earned her PhD from Georgetown University.

Rubin taught at Montgomery College and Georgetown and then The Carnegie Institution. Despite the sexism she was met with in her field, she was able to build a successful career making important scientific discoveries, winning awards, and being an advocate for women in science. She was admitted to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981 and awarded the National Medal of Science in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. Rubin is a pioneer in astrophysics for women and an inspiration to keep pushing forward in a male dominated field.