Few astronomers in the 20th century did as much to expand our understanding of the universe as Vera Rubin. To tell her remarkable story in their biography Vera Rubin: A Life (Harvard University Press, 2021), authors Jacqueline and Simon Mitton describe both the range of her accomplishments as well as the barriers she overcame in order to achieve them.
As they explain, Rubin was drawn early to the study of the stars, determining early in her life that she wanted to be an astronomer. To become one she had to overcome the assumptions of many of her peers that science was not an appropriate field of study for a woman, or that she would abandon her studies once she married and had children.
Defying their expectations, Rubin balanced child-rearing with earning her doctorate in astronomy and undertaking observational work. Though she participated in a number of different studies, her passion was for understanding galaxies, and her discoveries proved critical for the acceptance of the existence of dark matter in the universe.
Acclaimed for her work, she used her position to fight for improve the status of women in the sciences, a fight that she continued alongside her research for the rest of her life.