Dr. Rubin is an observational astronomer who has devoted her professional career to the study of motions of gas and stars in galaxies in the universe, and her studies have played a significant role in uncovering previously unknown features of the universe, particularly relating to dark matter.
She is the author of some 200 papers on the subject of galaxies and their motions. She also is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. In 1993 President Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Sciences and nominated her to the National Science Board, 1996-2002. In 1996 she received the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (London), becoming the first woman to be so honored since Carolyn Herschel in 1828. In 1965 she became the first woman authorized to observe at the Palomar Observatory.
In addition to astronomy, Dr. Rubin has been a force for greater recognition of women in the sciences. She has called for more women in the NAS, on review panels, and in academic searches. She says that she has fought with the National Academy of Sciences, but she continues to be dissatisfied with the number of women who are elected each year. She claims it is the saddest part of her life and says, “Thirty years ago, I thought everything was possible.”