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Vera Rubin

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Title: Vera Rubin  
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Subject: Dark matter, Sandra Faber, Timeline of knowledge about galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and large-scale structure, Physical cosmology, Timeline of cosmological theories
Collection: 1928 Births, 20Th-Century Astronomers, 21St-Century Astronomers, American Astronomers, American People of Lithuanian-Jewish Descent, American People of Moldovan-Jewish Descent, American Women Scientists, Cornell University Alumni, Georgetown University Alumni, Jewish American Scientists, Living People, Members of the American Philosophical Society, Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, National Medal of Science Laureates, People from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Recipients of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vassar College Alumni, Women Astronomers
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Vera Rubin

Vera Rubin
Vera Rubin measuring spectra, c. 1970
Born (1928-07-23) July 23, 1928
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Citizenship American
Nationality American
Fields Astronomy
Institutions Carnegie Institution of Washington
Alma mater Georgetown University
Thesis  (1954)
Doctoral advisor George Gamow
Other academic advisors Richard Feynman, Hans Bethe, Philip Morrison
Notable students Sandra Faber
Known for Galaxy rotation problem
Dark Matter
Rubin-Ford effect
Notable awards Bruce Medal, Dickson Prize in Science, Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, National Medal of Science

Vera (Cooper) Rubin (born July 23, 1928) is an American astronomer who pioneered work on galaxy rotation rates. She uncovered the discrepancy between the predicted angular motion of galaxies and the observed motion, by studying galactic rotation curves. This phenomenon became known as the galaxy rotation problem.


  • Background and education 1
  • Scientific work 2
    • Galaxy rotation problem 2.1
    • Dark matter 2.2
  • Awards and honors 3
    • Named after her 3.1
  • Personal 4
  • Religious views 5
  • Publications 6
  • In popular culture 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Background and education

Rubin was born in Philadelphia and lived in Washington, D.C. when she was 10 years old. It was in Washington, D.C. that she started to develop an interest in astronomy.[1] Vera Rubin's father, Philip Cooper, was an electrical engineer, born in Vilnius, Lithuania as Pesach Kobchefski. Her mother, Rose Applebaum, originally came from Bessarabia, and worked for Bell Telephone Company calculating mileage for telephone lines. Rubin has an older sister named Ruth Cooper Burg, who was an administrative judge in the United States Department of Defense.[2] Rubin earned her BA degree at Vassar College and attempted to enroll at Princeton but never received their graduate catalog, as women there were not allowed in the graduate astronomy program until 1975.[3]

She instead enrolled for her

  • Quotations related to Vera Rubin at Wikiquote
  • Vera Rubin at Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington
  • Vera Rubin in CWP at UCLA
  • Vera Rubin's Dark Universe
  • Vera Rubin and Dark Matter, American Museum of Natural History
  • Vera Rubin at Peter Gruber Foundation
  • Astronomical Society of the Pacific: Women in Astronomy
  • Lake Afton Public Observatory: Women in Astronomy
  • Princeton University 2005 honorary degrees press release
  • Oral History interview transcript with Vera Rubin 21 September 1995, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives
  • Adler Planetarium Women in Space Science Award

External links

Further reading

  1. ^
  2. ^ Oral History Transcript — Dr. Vera Cooper Rubin
  3. ^
  4. ^ Vera Cooper Rubin
  5. ^ Montgomery College
  6. ^ "Rubin, Vera Cooper" CWP
  7. ^ Mount Wilson and Palomar
  8. ^ Vera C. Rubin
  9. ^ Faculty Members
  10. ^ 2.4.1. The Rubin-Ford Effect
  11. ^ First observational evidence of dark matter
  12. ^ Women in Aviation and Space History
  13. ^ Astronomers try to unravel a force greater than gravity that will determine the fate of the cosmos
  14. ^
  15. ^ EXPLORE THE UNIVERSE: Dark Universe : Vera Rubin
  16. ^ Weizmann Women & Science Award
  17. ^ Vera Rubin, Noted Astronomer, Wins International Cosmology Prize
  18. ^ Vera Rubin Wins 2003 ASP Bruce Medal
  19. ^ James Craig Watson Medal
  20. ^ Carnegie’s Vera Rubin to Receive Richtmyer Award
  21. ^ Dickson Prize HONOR
  22. ^ Vera Rubin (1928– )
  23. ^ Lifetime Achievement Award
  24. ^ Vera C. Rubin Carnegie Institution of Washington
  25. ^ Women's History Month | Vera Rubin
  26. ^ American Philosophical Society Member History
  27. ^ Henry Norris Russell Lectureship
  28. ^ Jansky Prize – The Karl G. Jansky Lectureship
  29. ^ General Assemblies & Administrative Meetings
  30. ^ 2002 Cosmology Prize
  31. ^ Laureate Profile
  32. ^ Women in Science Hall of Fame
  33. ^
  34. ^


  • Rubin is featured in an animated segment of the 13th and final episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
  • Vera Rubin can be seen on the BBC documentary Most of Our Universe is Missing.[34]
  • In the first episode of the 22nd Season of The Simpsons, Milhouse lists "Vers Rubin" (sic) as his pick for the 2010 Physics Nobel prize.

In popular culture




Rubin is an observant Jew, and sees no conflict between science and religion. In an interview, she stated: "In my own life, my science and my religion are separate. I'm Jewish, and so religion to me is a kind of moral code and a kind of history. I try to do my science in a moral way, and, I believe that, ideally, science should be looked upon as something that helps us understand our role in the universe."[33]

Religious views

Of her potential legacy, Rubin remarked : “Fame is fleeting, my numbers mean more to me than my name. If astronomers are still using my data years from now, that’s my greatest compliment.”[32]

Motivated by her own battle to gain credibility as a woman astronomer, Rubin continues to encourage young girls to pursue their dreams of investigating the universe. Overcoming discouraging comments on her choice of study was a constant challenge, but she persevered, supported by her father and, later, her husband and family. In addition to astronomy, Rubin has been a force for greater recognition of women in the sciences. She has advocated for more women in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), on review panels, and in academic searches. She says that she has fought with the NAS, but she continues to be dissatisfied with the number of women who are elected each year. She states that it is the saddest part of her life and says, "Thirty years ago, I thought everything was possible."[31]

Rubin has been married since 1948 to Robert Rubin,[30] whom she met while he was a fellow graduate student at Cornell University majoring in physical chemistry. All four of her children have earned PhDs in the natural sciences or mathematics: David (1950), PhD geology, a geologist with the US Geological Survey; Judith Young (1952), PhD cosmic-ray physics, an astronomer at the University of Massachusetts; Karl (1956), PhD mathematics, a mathematician at the University of California at Irvine; and Allan (1960), PhD geology, a geologist at Princeton University.


Named after her

As of 9 June 2013, Rubin has co-authored 114 peer reviewed research papers. She also served on the board of trustees for Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public, from 2002–2008.

Awards and honors

The existence of dark matter jointly explains galaxy rotation curves, the motion of galaxies within galaxy clusters, patterns of gravitational lensing, and the distribution of mass in systems such as the Bullet Cluster. Alternative MOND (Modified Newtonian Dynamics) models for galaxy rotation curves have been excluded. Rubin has expressed disappointment about this result, stating "If I could have my pick, I would like to learn that Newton's laws must be modified in order to correctly describe gravitational interactions at large distances. That's more appealing than a universe filled with a new kind of sub-nuclear particle."[14]

In the 1970s Rubin obtained the strongest evidence up to that time for the existence of dark matter.[12] The nature of dark matter is as yet unknown, but its presence is crucial to understanding the future of the universe.[13]

Dark matter

Wishing to avoid controversy, Rubin moved her area of research to the study of rotation curves of galaxies, commencing with the Andromeda Galaxy. She pioneered work on galaxy rotation rates, and uncovered the discrepancy between the predicted angular motion of galaxies and the observed motion, by studying galaxy rotation curves. Galaxies are rotating so fast that they would fly apart, if the gravity of their constituent stars was all that was holding them together. But they are not flying apart, and therefore, a huge amount of unseen mass must be holding them together. This phenomenon became known as the galaxy rotation problem. Her calculations showed that galaxies must contain at least ten times as much dark mass as can be accounted for by the visible stars.[11] Attempts to explain the galaxy rotation problem led to the theory of dark matter.

Rubin began work which was close to the topic of her previously controversial thesis regarding galaxy clusters, with instrument maker Kent Ford, making hundreds of observations. The Rubin–Ford effect is named after them, and has been the subject of intense discussion ever since it was reported.[10] It describes the motion of the Milky Way relative to a sample of galaxies at distances of about 150 to 300 Mly, and suggests that it is different from the Milky Way's motion relative to the cosmic microwave background radiation.

Galaxy rotation problem

Since 1978, she has researched and analyzed over 200 galaxies. [9] and has worked there as an astronomer since that time. Rubin is currently a Senior Fellow at the DTM, and her work area is described as "Galactic and extragalactic dynamics; large-scale structure and dynamics of the universe."[8] Carnegie Institution of Washington at the Terrestrial Magnetism In 1965 she also secured a position at the Department of [7]. Prior to this, women had not been authorized to access the facilities.Palomar Observatory Also in 1965, she became the first woman allowed to use the instruments at the [6] After her graduation, Rubin taught at

Scientific work


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