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How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe

by Sandra Nickel ; illustrated by Aimée Sicuro

Pub Date: March 2nd, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-4197-3626-1
Publisher: Abrams

A star-struck girl becomes a renowned astronomer.

From childhood, Vera Rubin loved the stars, noting their movements from her bedroom window. Fascinated by the galaxies’ rotations, she was determined to become a scientist and became the only female astronomy major at Vassar College. Marriage and motherhood didn’t deter her from developing a solid career in teaching and research. Rubin earned her doctorate and, doing painstaking calculations, made major astronomical breakthroughs—that were dismissed at first due to the sexist assumptions of the male scientific community (depicted by Sicuro as almost uniformly White as well). Eventually, her ideas were accepted and respected. Working at the Palomar Observatory, Rubin made her seminal discovery that “dark matter” explains the phenomenon that stars at the edges of galaxies move as quickly as those at the center—and that it makes up most of the universe. This engaging biography will appeal to budding scientists, particularly those with a penchant for sky searching. Some of it may go over some students’ heads, though the author does a good job conveying concepts in a compact, uncomplicated manner. Rubin is White and portrayed as appealing, dedicated, and determined to make her way in a men’s-only world; she shows it’s cool being a highly intelligent, science-loving female. Several Rubin quotes are included, and a lovely Rubin epigraph concludes the book. Numerous delicate illustrations aptly feature dark blue, star-spangled, galactic backgrounds. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48.6% of actual size.)

A creditable, earnest biography of a famed woman scientist.

(author's note, timeline, notes, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)