Vera Ruby

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Vera Rubin (2009)
Vera Rubin with John Glenn

Vera Cooper Rubin (born July 23, 1928 in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania , † December 25, 2016 in Princeton , New Jersey ) was an American astronomer who mainly dealt with the determination of the distribution of dark matter .


Vera Rubin grew up in Washington, DC . She attended Vassar College with a bachelor's degree in 1948, Cornell University with a master's degree in 1951 and received her doctorate in 1954 with George Gamow at Georgetown University . Already at this time she was concerned with the large-scale distribution of galaxies and the movements of galaxy clusters superimposed by the expansion of the universe , which are still important problems of observational cosmology today . From 1965 she worked at the Carnegie Institution of Washington (Department of Terrestrial Magnetism), where her collaboration with Kent Ford began. Using the latest spectrographs (built by Ford) at the time, she and Ford began to study the inner movements of galaxies into their faint outer regions. While observing the Andromeda Nebula, they came across the first indications of dark matter. While investigating the Andromeda Nebula, they made a surprising discovery. If the mass of galaxies were distributed like the visible stars , the orbital speed in the outskirts of spiral galaxies should decrease with increasing distance from the center. Instead, Rubin and Ford found circulating speeds that remained almost constant with distance, with typical values ​​of around 200 km / s (see rotation curve ). Rubin explained this by stating that there must be a halo of dark matter around the galaxy. Rubin's results, along with similar results from radio measurements of the 21 cm line of atomic hydrogen, were the strongest indications of the existence of dark matter in normal galaxies.

Rubin paid particular attention to the role of women in science. She had been refused entry to Princeton University herself .

She had been married since 1948 and had three children. Vera Rubin died on December 25, 2016 at the age of 88.

From 1979 to 1984 she served on the Smithsonian Council.

She was visiting professor at the University of Texas (Tinsley Visiting Professor 1988) and at Berkeley (Chancellor's Distinguished Professor 1981).

In the opinion of many specialist colleagues, Vera Rubin should have earned the Nobel Prize. In 2020 her post mortem was given a special honor, the National Science Foundation named the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile after her.

Honors, prizes and memberships (selection)

She has received multiple honorary doctorates - including from Harvard and Yale.


Web links

Commons : Vera Rubin  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Birth and career data according to American Men and Women of Science , Thomson Gale 2004
  2. Sarah Scoles: How Vera Rubin confirmed Dark Matter , Astronomy Magazine, October 4, 2016 (English)
  3. ^ Christian Weber: Late honor. Retrieved January 28, 2020 .