Oral History Interviews

Interviews that offer unique insights into the lives, works, and personalities of modern scientists

Vera Rubin on Maria Mitchell and why she became an astronomer.

Oral history audio excerpt

Vera Rubin on Maria Mitchell and why she became an astronomer.

Lightman:

Did you know when you were in high school that you wanted to go into astronomy, or was that later on?

Rubin:

Yes, by high school I knew I wanted to study astronomy. I knew I wanted to be an astronomer. I didn't know a single astronomer, but I just knew that was what I wanted to do.

Lightman:

Did you know that it was a career possibility or have some sense of that?

Rubin:

Yes, I knew about Maria Mitchell, probably from some children's book. I knew that she had taught at Vassar. So I knew there was a school where women could study astronomy. So, yes, it never occurred to me that I couldn't be an astronomer.

Lightman:

Is that why you went to Vassar?

Rubin:

Yes.

Lightman:

Because of Maria Mitchell?

Rubin:

Yes. That and a lot of other reasons. I needed a scholarship and they gave me one. I didn't apply to many colleges. There were not an enormous number of colleges where a woman could study astronomy. But I knew about Vassar because of her.