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Vera Rubin will always be remembered for her contributions to the scientific community
Astrophysicist Vera Rubin, who died last Sunday night at the age of 88, will always be remembered for her significant contributions to the scientific community as well as her efforts marking a woman’s entry into the science arena.
Rubin is best known for proving the existence of dark matter. She discovered that galaxies in the universe don’t rotate the way as originally thought, because of some unknown force, dubbed dark matter. The concept was introduced by Swiss scientist Fritz Zwicky in the 1930s, but it was proved by Rubin in the 1970s.
Astronomer Emily Levesque said, “The existence of dark matter has utterly revolutionized our concept of the universe and our entire field. The ongoing effort to understand the role of dark matter has basically spawned entire subfields within astrophysics and particle physics.”
Born in 1928 in Philadelphia, Rubin moved to Washington, D.C., with her family as a child. Having a keen interest in stars, she crafted a telescope out of a cardboard tube at age of 14.
In 1948, she graduated in astronomy from Vassar College, and she was the only student to do so that year. But, she could not join Princeton University because women were not allowed in the institution’s astronomy program at the time. She, instead, she earned her master’s degree from Cornell University.
At age 22, she presented her research on the rotation of the universe at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society, even as the male-dominated crowd was quite critical. Later, she earned a doctorate from Georgetown University. Finally, in the 1970s, she went on to confirm the existence of dark matter.