April 10, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

March is Women’s History month, so at I, Science we are highlighting some of the incredible women who have contributed to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and maths - who have often been overlooked in our textbooks.
Vera Rubin portrait
Vera Rubin
Image from NASA via Wikimedia Commons

Vera Rubin’s research was instrumental in discovering evidence for the presence of Dark Matter. After being the only Astronomy undergraduate at Vassar College, she was barred from graduate studies at Princeton due to her gender. Nevertheless, she persevered, studying the motion of galaxies as a graduate at Cornell University and Georgetown University. In 1965, she became the first female astronomer at Polomar Observatory. While there, she had to create her own women’s restroom due to there being no previous female occupants. Her collaborations with astronomer Kent Ford observing the rotation rates of galaxies led to the discovery of the Rubin-Ford effect, which points to how galaxies behave in the expansion of the universe.

Dark Matter was first proposed by Fritz Zwicky in 1933 but is difficult to detect because it does not interact with forces like anything else. Rubin’s important observations of galaxy motion showed that Dark Matter actually makes up around 80% of the Universe.