Vera (Cooper) Rubin (born 23 July 1928) is an American astronomer who pioneered work on galaxy rotation rates. Her opus magnum was the uncovering of 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.
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. Rubin, however, supports the MOND approach, 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."
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 an 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.
All four of her children have earned Ph.D.s in the natural sciences or mathematics: David (1950), Ph.D. geology, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey; Judith Young (1952), Ph.D. cosmic-ray physics, an astronomer at the University of Massachusetts; Karl (1956), Ph.D. mathematics, a mathematician at the University of California at Irvine; and Allan (1960), Ph.D. geology, a geologist at Princeton University.
She is the author of Bright Galaxies Dark Matters (Masters of Modern Physics), AIP Press, 1996, ISBN 1-56396-231-4
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."
Named after her
Vera Rubin can be seen on the BBC documentary Most of the Universe is Missing.
Vera Rubin (born July 23, 1928) 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.