Many attributed the oversight to gender bias

The Washington Post on Vera Rubin:

Dr. Rubin’s groundbreaking discoveries, made primarily with physicist W. Kent Ford, have revolutionized the way scientists observe, measure and understand the universe.

The concept of “dark matter,” an unknown substance among stars in distant galaxies, had existed since the 1930s, but it was not proved until Dr. Rubin’s studies with Ford in the 1970s. It is considered one of the most significant and fundamental advances in astronomy during the 20th century.

“The existence of dark matter has utterly revolutionized our concept of the universe and our entire field,” University of Washington astronomer Emily Levesque told Astronomy magazine this year. “The ongoing effort to understand the role of dark matter has basically spawned entire subfields within astrophysics and particle physics.”

Dr. Rubin, who spent most of her career at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, continued to make new discoveries — including of previously unknown galaxies — into the 21st century. For years she was considered a leading contender for the Nobel Prize, but the award never came. Many attributed the oversight to gender bias among male scientists and prize committees.

The last woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics was Maria Goeppert Mayer, who shared the 1963 prize for her work on atomic structure. The only other woman to win a Nobel in physics was Marie Curie in 1903.

“Alfred Nobel’s will describes the physics prize as recognizing ‘the most important discovery’ within the field of physics,” Levesque told Astronomy magazine. “If dark matter doesn’t fit that description, I don’t know what does.”

Sometimes I get very fed up with this filter that prevents people from recognizing women’s achievements.

Dr. Rubin peered into the cosmos and examined the rotation of more than 200 galaxies. Among other findings, she determined that stars orbiting on the outer edges of galaxies moved at the same speed as those near the interior.

The discovery defied the accepted norms of astronomy, which held that the far-flung stars should move more slowly. To account for the uniform speeds, Dr. Rubin concluded that the distant regions of galaxies contained considerable amounts of a dense, unseen mass, or dark matter, which affected everything from gravitational pull to the shape of galaxies to how stars move in relation to one another.

Dark matter has not been directly observed, and its precise composition remains unknown, but scientists think it constitutes about 84 percent of the cosmos.

“So important is this dark matter to our understanding of the size, shape, and ultimate fate of the universe,” Dr. Rubin wrote in Scientific American in 1998, “that the search for it will very likely dominate astronomy for the next few decades.”

I hope women will be allowed to participate.

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