Vera (Cooper) Rubin
July 23, 1928
Vera Rubin is an American astronomer who pioneered work on galaxy rotation rates. Her opus magnus was the uncovering of the discrepancy between the predicted angular motion of galaxies and the observed motion, by studying galactic rotation curves. This phenomena became known as the galaxy rotation problem.
Currently, the theory of dark matter is the most popular candidate for explaining this. The alternative theory of MOND (Modified Newtonian Dynamics) has little support in the community.
After she earned an A.B. from Vassar College (1948) she tried to enroll at Princeton but never received their graduate catalog as women there were not allowed in the graduate astronomy program until 1975. She applied to Cornell University, where she studied physics under Philip Morrison, Richard Feynman, and Hans Bethe. There she earned a M.A. in 1951. Then in 1954 at Georgetown University she earned a Ph.D.
Vera Rubin also has honorary Doctors of Science degrees from numerous universities, including Harvard and Yale. Rubin is currently a research astronomer at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. She is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. So far she has co-authored 114 peer reviewed research papers.
She is the author of Bright Galaxies Dark Matters.
Rubin received the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1996. She was only the second female recipient of this medal, the first being Caroline Herschel in 1828.
The asteroid 5726 Rubin is named in her honor.