Star Stuff

Vera Rubin (1928-2016) spent her life watching stars. In the 1950s she presented her thesis to a room of Ivy league academic suits. Her mic drop was that galaxies spin faster than Newton's laws of gravity say they should. She attributed the additional weight and pull to an unknown dark matter, a mysterious gravitational singularity  that seems to hold together our universe. When men told her not to do science - her high school teacher, Princeton admissions, establishment physicists - she did science, because astronomy was her passion and she understood that universal truth, that you must not be discouraged by those in power who wish to keep you down because they are scared you are BETTER. Vera Rubin did not face violence. She triumphed over systematic discrimination with elegance and strength. She spent her nights studying galaxies, which she found beautiful, she lived a loving life, and her four scientist children admired and respected their mother. She believed that we will never understand everything about our place, our universe, and found comfort and excitement in the unknown. Three years after winning the National Medal of Science, she was asked to speak to the 1996 graduating class of UC Berkeley. She told the future that only through diversity can we learn more. She asked us to do better. May her energy find peace in immeasurable heaven.

By Hazel O'Neil

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