Vera Rubin didn’t plan to be a pioneering female astronomer. When she was 10, lying awake at her home in Washington, D.C., memorizing the paths of the stars outside her window, “I didn’t know a single astronomer, male or female,” she once said in an interview. “I didn’t think that all astronomers were male, because I didn’t know.”
But pioneer she did. Rubin’s work fundamentally changed astronomy by confirming the existence of dark matter, the invisible stuff that makes up 27 percent of the universe.
The way she worked changed astronomy, too. The field may have been all male when she entered it 70 years ago. But by the time she died Sunday, at age 88, that was no longer true. That’s in large part thanks to Rubin: a brilliant mentor and fierce advocate for women in science.
“She made science kinder & the culture of research more human,” tweeted Mika McKinnon, a science writer and geophysicist.