Vera CooperRubin

Far ahead of her time, Vera Cooper Rubin theorized that galaxies clustered and moved in ways that defied the Big Bang Theory, and helped prove the existence of dark matter. Rubin graduated from Vassar in 1948 and earned a master’s from Cornell in 1951 with a thesis arguing that galaxies were moving around undetected centers. Her 1954 doctoral thesis at Georgetown University suggested that galaxies clustered together instead of spreading outward evenly from the Big Bang. It took decades for other scientists to examine and agree with these theories. Rubin taught at Georgetown from 1955–1965 before joining the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. It was there that she helped find some of the first direct evidence for dark matter (confirming that the universe’s mass is mostly dark matter, the stuff we can’t see), and since 1978 she has found dark matter in over 200 galaxies. Among her many accolades, Rubin earned a 1993 Presidential National Medal of Science and in 1981 was the second woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 1997 she published Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter for the general public.


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Vera Rubin discovered early on that a woman who aimed to become an astronomer did not have an easy path to follow. Since then, she has not only transformed our fundamental understanding of the cosmos, but has mentored many young women who aimed to follow in her scientific footsteps.
Courtesy of Vera Rubin
Date of Birth

Philadelphia, PA
United States

Date of Death
Astronomer, Professor, Writer

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Vera Cooper Rubin." (Viewed on June 12, 2021) <>.


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