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Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #21: Vera Florence Cooper Rubin

Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #21: Vera Florence Cooper Rubin

Scientists. Activists. Lawyers. Artists. The first computer programmers.

The history books may have neglected some of the incredible Philly women who changed the world over the last 200-plus years—but we have not.

While it shouldn’t take a national observance to put women on our radar, this is one holiday we’re happy to play along with: Every weekday during Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a local woman whose legacy deserves celebrating—and who continues to inspire us.

Find the full list below—and also check out the incredible women we included in our Black History Month All-Stars roundup—like Marian Anderson, Sadie Alexander and Caroline Still Anderson.

21

Vera Florence Cooper Rubin

Astronomer

Vera Florence Cooper Rubin

Astronomer

1928-2016

A trailblazer in the field of galaxy rotation rates, Rubin was the second woman ever elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and a role model for, champion of, and mentor to countless female scientists and working mothers.

At the all-female Vassar College, she was the only astronomy student in her class, and she was subsequently rejected from Princeton’s graduate program because of her gender. She went on to study at Cornell and Georgetown instead, becoming a mother and juggling her professional and family lives while pursuing her graduate work.

Rubin was the first woman allowed to observe at the Palomar Observatory; reportedly, she drew a woman and pasted it over the sign on the sole bathroom there, which had been marked “MEN.”

Her research led to the understanding that only about 20 percent of matter in the universe is visible, while the remaining 80 percent is dark matter. And today, among countless other accomplishments, an area on Mars, Vera Rubin Ridge, is named after her, as are a satellite and an asteroid.


EDUCATION

  • Vassar College
  • Cornell University
  • Georgetown University


ACCOMPLISHMENTS


FINAL WORDS:

The New York Times has said that Rubin’s work “usher[ed] in a Copernican-scale change” in cosmological theory.


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