|1948||B.A., Vassar College; married Robert Rubin|
|1951||M.A., Cornell University|
|1954||Ph.D., Georgetown University|
|1955||Research Astronomer, Georgetown University|
|1960||Assistant Professor, Georgetown University|
|1965||Joined Dept. of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution, as Research Associate; became Staff Member in about 1970|
|1981||Elected to National Academy of Sciences|
|1993||National Medal of Science|
Astronomers long believed that visible matter--the stars and gas observed in galaxies--was essentially all the matter in the universe. Vera Rubin, however, has demonstrated that what can be seen is only about 10 percent of what really exists. An amazing 90 percent of our universe consists of dark, invisible matter. We know it is there because we can measure its effect on the orbits of visible stars and gas. Rubin's research has focused on the study of galaxies: their movement, their internal rotation, and their distribution. Her career has followed an unusual pattern; she has repeatedly done path-breaking work in fields decades before they were popular, moving on as the fields became crowded. As her work has made her famous, she has used her position to work for the advancement of women and minorities in science.
As a child, Vera Cooper fell in love with astronomy watching the night sky through her bedroom window. "I would prefer to stay up and watch the stars than go to sleep," she remembers. "There was just nothing as interesting in my life as watching the stars every night."1 With the help of her father, an electrical engineer, she built a small telescope through which she tried to photograph the moon. Because her telescope had no driving motor, the photographs were a "total flop," but the project was fun. At age 17 she went to Vassar College, where she knew that Maria Mitchell, the first American to discover a comet, had taught astronomy.