What keeps scientists like Vera Cooper Rubin moving forward when the obstacles in her way are insurmountable by others? Born in 1928, Rubin faced educational limitations set on women during her time: a high school teacher who discouraged her from pursuing science, Princeton’s then policy not to accept women into astronomy programs, and skeptical peers in the science field. But she persisted in her work and gained reputable recognition as an astronomer.
In the 1970s, Rubin and collaborator Kent Ford made a significant discovery in physics. They measured the rotational velocities (how fast they spin) of interstellar matter in orbit around the center of the nearby Andromeda galaxy. Then they compared these studies with those of other galaxies and were able to infer that the galaxies must contain dark matter.
Read how Rubin and Ford arrived at their conclusion and what that meant for understanding dark matter in Physics for the 21st Century, unit 10, section 2, Initial Evidence of Dark Matter. And if you teach students who are curious about science, use Rubin’s story to encourage them to follow their interests. One of them might end up solving the mystery of dark matter altogether.