Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Vera Rubin Recognized for Outstanding Leadership in Physics Education

College Park, Maryland, United States, November 27, 2007

The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) announced today that Vera Rubin, Ph.D., has been selected to receive The Richtmyer Memorial Award. Rubin, Senior Fellow of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, received the Award for outstanding contributions to physics and effectively communicating those contributions to physics educators.

The Richtmyer Award will be presented to Dr. Rubin at a Ceremonial Session of the AAPT Winter Meeting at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, on Tuesday, January 22, 2008. Following the presentation, Dr. Rubin will then deliver her keynote address titled “Rotating Galaxies and Dark Matter.”

Ken Heller, Chairman, AAPT Awards Committee, said, “Dr. Rubin’s work is a beacon in the in the search for the fundamental physics underlying our universe. Her astronomical measurements demonstrate an insight for important problems and a dedication to precise measurement that is a model for aspiring scientists. Two of her early research results, the distribution of galaxies in the universe and the motion of stars in galaxies opened the door to arguably the most important topics of current physics research, the nature of dark matter, and the evolution of the universe.”

“Dr. Rubin’s contributions to our knowledge of the universe, both seen and unseen, have transformed our understanding and posed new challenges still unresolved today; and her impact magnified by the many students she has inspired going all the way back to 1965 when she became the first woman to conduct research at the Palomar Observatory. We honor these achievements, which we believe go hand in hand,” stated Toufic Hakim, AAPT’s Executive Officer.

Dr. Rubin is an observational astronomer whose studies of the motions of visible matter in galaxies lead to the discovery of dark matter. She is a graduate of Vassar College, Cornell University, and Georgetown University. After 10 years as a researcher and faculty member at Georgetown, she moved to the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1965 where she is now a Senior Fellow.

She has received many prestigious awards including the National Medal of Science in 1993 and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1996. She has also received honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Smith College, among others. Dr. Rubin is also active in communicating her science to students and teachers and in encouraging and supporting women in science.

Regarding the award, Rubin stated, “As a young scientist, I believed that most of my satisfactions in science would be inner satisfactions. But through the years, I have experienced much joy from interactions with others: scientists, teachers, students, and the interested public. That makes the honor of receiving the Richtmyer Memorial Award from AAPT very special, because of my high regard for both the AAPT and for the previous scientists who have been honored with this award.”  

About the Award
The Richtmyer Memorial Award is given annually in memory of Floyd K. Richtmyer, distinguished physicist, teacher, and administrator. Professor Richtmyer was one of the founders of AAPT and served as its president. As a teacher, author, research worker, and dean, he was the guide for many young physicists who became leaders of American science and has had a wide influence on the development of physics in the United States. The award has been given annually since 1941 to a person who has made outstanding contributions to physics and effectively communicated those contributions to physics educators.

The previous awardee was Alex Filippenko. Past recipients of the Richtmyer Award include Arthur H. Compton, Enrico Fermi, Philip Morrison, and Steven Chu.
The complete list of winners can be found at

About AAPT
AAPT is the leading organization for physics educators—with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Its mission is to enhance the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching. AAPT was founded in 1930 and is headquartered in the American Center for Physics in College Park, Maryland.

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