Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Remembering Vera

On December 25, 2016, the great astronomer Vera Rubin passed away, surrounded by her family. Vera helped discover the still-mysterious presence of dark matter in the universe in the 1970s, when the largest telescope in the world was about 5m in diameter (now we are working to build telescopes five to six times that size). Her creativity and persistence and ingenuity advanced astronomy into a new age of exploration and trying to understand the history of everything. At the same time she demonstrated the amazing potential and the necessity of women participating in science. Vera was a vocal proponent of equity for women in science, for women's rights in larger society, and a mentor and inspiration to many, many women scientists at all career stages. You can read more about her life and her work here and here (both in her own words), here, here, here, and here.

Frustratingly and sadly, Vera has not and will not be awarded a Nobel Prize for her ground-breaking and trail-blazing work. But we should remember her for the awesome scientist and person she was, Nobel or not, and can honor her by continuing to share memories and stories of her life and work. We started an open document for those who knew Vera, who drew courage and strength from her resilience, who were deeply touched by her compassion and humanity can share their memories of her. This is also a window into the day-to-day difference she made, for those who did not have the privilege of knowing her.

Thank you, Vera.

Vera Rubin in 2010. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)