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2002 Gruber Cosmology Prize Press Release

Vera Rubin Headshot
Vera C. Rubin

Vera Rubin, Noted Astronomer, Wins International Cosmology Prize

Peter Gruber Foundation Honors Pioneering Astronomer

ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I., Nov. 20-- Vera C. Rubin, a pioneer in the study of how galaxies revolve within massive shrouds of dark matter and a role model for women in the sciences in general and astronomy in particular, has been selected as the winner of this year's Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation.

The prize, a gold medal and $150,000, was presented to Dr. Rubin on November 18 in a ceremony at the Carnegie Observatory's Centennial Symposia II in Pasadena, California.

Photo courtesy of Mark Godfrey

Dr. Rubin was selected by the Cosmology Advisory Board of the Foundation, an international group of leading experts in the field.

The citation that names her as the winner for 2002, says, "Dr. Vera Rubin, Astronomer at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, is preeminent in studying the motions of galaxies. Her pioneering studies of deviations of galaxy motions from classic Hubble theory demonstrated that large scale structure existed in the universe. Her discovery that most of the universe is unseen dark matter derived from her exploration of the rotation of spiral galaxies. By example and gentle voice she has championed equal rights and revealed the incredible beauty of the universe."

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 at 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."

Commenting on the selection of Dr. Rubin as the 2002 cosmology prizewinner of the Foundation that bears his name, Peter Gruber said, "Vera Rubin has been one of the pioneering figures in cosmology for half a century as well as a role model for women in the sciences. The Peter Gruber Foundation is pleased to honor her on both counts."

The Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation, which recognizes individuals who have contributed to fundamental advances in the field, is one of the premier international prizes in the field. Last year's prize winner was Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom and Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University. Recipients of the Cosmology Prize in 2000 were Allan R. Sandage, Staff Astronomer Emeritus, The Observatories (Pasadena, California) Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Phillip J.E. Peebles, the Albert Einstein Professor of Physics at Princeton University.

A distinguished Advisory Board selected the Cosmology Prize recipient for 2002 after a worldwide solicitation of candidates. Members of the Advisory Board are: Professor V. Radhakrishnan of the University of Bangalore; Professor Lodewijk Woltjer of the St. Michel l'Observatoire, France; Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of Istanbul's Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA); Professor Virginia Trimble of the University of Maryland and the University of California at Irvine; Dr. Katsuhiko Sato, University of Tokyo; Professor John Ball of the Mathematical Institute, Oxford; and Professor Robert Williams, Distinguished Research Scholar at the Space Telescope Science Institute in the U.S. Additional advisors to the Peter Gruber Foundation on the Cosmology Prize are Dr. George V. Coyne of The Vatican Observatory, Professor John D. Barrow of Cambridge University, and Dr. Owen Gingerich of Harvard University.

Affiliation with International Astronomical Union

In 2000, the Peter Gruber Foundation and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced an agreement by which the IAU provides its expertise and contacts with professional astronomers worldwide for the nomination and selection of Cosmology Prize winners. Under the agreement, the Peter Gruber Foundation also funds a fellowship program for young astronomers, with the aim of promoting the continued recruitment of new talent into the field. The first $37,500 fellowships were awarded in May 2001 to Sergey Sazonov from Russia for study at Germany’s Max Planke Institute Astrophysik and to Anshu Gupta from India for study at Italy’s University of Pisa.

The International Astronomical Union, founded in 1919, organizes professional astronomers worldwide. Its current membership includes more than 8,000 individual astronomers from more than 70 countries. The IAU maintains a large program of international scientific, educational, and standardizing and coordinating activities.

The Peter Gruber Foundation was founded in 1993 and established a record of charitable giving principally in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it is located. Last year, the Foundation expanded its philanthropic focus to the creation and awarding of a series of international awards recognizing discoveries and achievements that produce fundamental shifts in human knowledge and culture.