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Astrophysicist Vera Rubin Lectures, Receives Honorary Doctorate at OWU


January 9, 2004

[ Vera Rubin Photo ]Jan. 13, 2004 » Dr. Rubin has cancelled her visit to the OWU campus.

DELAWARE, OHIO -- Noted astrophysicist Dr. Vera Rubin will receive the Doctor of Science honorary degree from Ohio Wesleyan University on Thursday, Jan. 15, during an invitation-only ceremony. She will present a public lecture the day before, at 4:10 p.m. in OWU's Hamilton-Williams Campus Center Benes Room, and also will share her experiences and expertise with OWU students during her two-day visit to campus.

Dr. Rubin, senior fellow in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institute in Washington, has spent her professional life studying the motions and distributions of galaxies. Her most notable contribution to astronomy and cosmology related to the internal motion and rotation of galaxies. Dr. Rubin and colleague Kent Ford used the Carnegie image-tube spectrograph which was mounted on the 72-inch Perkins' Telescope of Ohio Wesleyan at its second home at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. She and Dr. Ford found that the stars in the galaxies rotated faster than could be explained by the gravitational pull of visible stars, leading to the realization that 90 percent of the mass in a galaxy is not visible. The nature of this "dark matter" has fascinated astronomers for the past quarter century.

Successfully combining her profession with family life, Dr. Rubin was the first woman to be granted observing time on the world's largest telescope at Mt. Palomar in 1965. She joined the Institute at which she now works in 1965 (she was the only astronomer on staff at that time) because of her interest in using the newly designed image-tube spectrograph.

"Vera Rubin's work is just as important as the work that Edwin Hubble did with the galaxies in the 20th century," says Tom Burns, director of Perkins Observatory at OWU. "She showed us how little we knew about the universe and how much of it -- 90 percent -- is virtually invisible."

Dr. Rubin, who has appeared frequently on NOVA episodes, has received numerous awards and recognition including the National Medal of Science in 1993, the Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society (London) in 1996, and the Women and Science Award from the Weizmann Institute in 1996. Her lecture on Wednesday is entitled "A Brief History of the Universe," and is free and open to the public.