vera rubin

Dr. Vera Rubin was a trailblazing astronomer who pioneered work on galaxy rotation rates. Her observations provided the first persuasive evidence of the existence of dark matter, a major scientific discovery that transformed modern physics and astronomy and thus our understanding of the universe. During the 1970s, Dr. Rubin’s work produced clear observational evidence that confirmed the vast majority of the mass in the universe is invisible. Early in her career, Rubin struggled to gain recognition as a female astronomer in a male-dominated field, and throughout her career she fought to bring down barriers to research that women face due to sexism. In addition to her research, Rubin championed gender parity and women in science, mentoring many other women astronomers. Rubin pushed for representation of women on scientific committees, as conference speakers, and as professors.

Vera received the Bruce Medal, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the National Medal of Science, among others. Her work was described by The New York Times as helping to “usher in a Copernican-scale change in cosmic consciousness, namely the realization that what astronomers always saw and thought was the universe is just the visible tip of a lumbering iceberg of mystery.” In 1993, she was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1993; she was often mentioned as a Nobel Prize candidate. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory is an astronomical facility on top of Cerro Pachón ridge in Chile that will conduct a 10-year survey of the Southern Hemisphere sky (referred to as the Legacy Survey of Space and Time, or LSST).


Years: 1928 – 2016

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Education: Ph.D. in Astronomy

Occupation: Astronomer

Expeditions: Into space, using telescopes in the USA and Chile, visited astronomers and telescopes at the South Pole

Favorite Place: At an astronomical observatory

Best Discovery: Discovering that most of the matter in the universe is “dark matter” Favorite Item In The Field: A telescope

Personal Hero: Maria Mitchell, 1818-1888, the first US woman astronomer

Hobbies: Family

Books: Bright Galaxies; Dark Matters

Advice: Don’t quit. You can do it.

Published Work: