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(NEW YORK) — Vera Rubin, an astronomer who studied more than 200 galaxies over the course of her career and discovered powerful evidence of dark matter, has died at the age of 88.

Allan Rubin, her son, announced that his mother died Sunday night of natural causes.

Vera Rubin found evidence of dark matter after discovering galaxies did not rotate exactly how they were predicted. Although it has not been directly observed, dark matter makes up 27 percent of the universe, but scientists still do not have a strong understanding of exactly what it is.

Rubin’s discoveries earned her a number of awards and honors, including a National Medal of Science presented by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and being elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She’s only the second female astronomer to be elected.

California Institute of Technology physicist Sean Carroll tweeted on Monday, “It goes without saying that, as a woman scientist, Vera Rubin had to overcome a number of barriers along the way.”

Although Rubin said her parents were extremely supportive of her career choice, she told the American Institute of Physics in 1995 that her father suggested she become a mathematician because of the difficulties of earning a living as an astronomer. Her father was an electrical engineer who helped her build a telescope as she had interest in astronomy as a young girl.

The only woman to graduate from Vassar College with an astronomy major in 1948, Rubin was not allowed at Princeton University’s graduate program because she was a woman. She instead earned a Master’s at Cornell University.

She earned a doctorate at Georgetown University and worked as a faculty worker before working at the Carnegie Institution, a nonprofit scientific research center in Washington.
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