Vera Rubin at the Lowell Observatory (Credit: Carnegie Institution)
Vera Cooper (1928-2016) was born in Philadelphia. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe (who changed their last name from Kobchefski to Cooper). From the young age of just 10, Cooper was interested in astronomy, and was later the only woman studying the subject in her college. She intended to continue graduate studies at Princeton but was forbidden because of her gender. Cooper went to Cornell University instead and studied astrophysics and quantum physics. There she also met her husband, Robert Rubin, who was pursuing graduate studies in chemistry. The two had four children, all of whom became Ph.D scientists and mathematicians. Rubin completed her Master’s in 1951 and went to Georgetown University for her doctorate. Around this time, she discovered that whole galaxies are rotating around their centres – an idea so revolutionary that it was initially rejected. Her 1954 Ph.D thesis was similarly revolutionary, showing that galaxies must be clumped in clusters. No one paid attention to this work for another two decades, when it was confirmed to be true. In 1965, Rubin was the first woman allowed to use Caltech’s famous Palomar Observatory. She then became a Senior Fellow at Washington’s Carnegie Institution, where her research was focused on “galactic and extragalactic dynamics”, among other things. Rubin made critical calculations with regards to galactic rotation rates, and together with her friend Robert Ford, discovered what is now known as the Rubin-Ford effect. In her studies, she found that galaxies are spinning so fast that they should be flying apart. They do not fly apart because gravity keeps them together. But, there is not enough visible matter in galaxies to generate so much gravity! This led Rubin to confirm the existence of invisible dark matter. This was perhaps her biggest breakthrough, and completely transformed astrophysics. For her tremendous achievements, Rubin has won multiple awards, including the National Medal of Science and the Royal Astronomical Society’s prestigious Gold Medal. There is also an asteroid named after her. Sadly, Rubin passed away earlier this week. Despite being 88 years old, Rubin continued her scientific research (focusing on the motion of distant stars) until the last days of her life. She was a pioneer for women in science, and worked tirelessly to get more women elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Rubin was proud of her Jewish heritage, and often spoke of the beauty and value of science and religion when studied together. In addition to half a dozen important scientific publications, Rubin wrote a book, and was featured in two documentaries. She was once described as an American “national treasure”.
Words of the Week
The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you. – Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize-winning physicist
Louis Lloyd Winter (1924-1965) was born in Toronto, the youngest of six children. He studied biochemistry at the University of Toronto, and after graduating with a Master’s Degree, borrowed $10,000 from his father to open his first company in the family garage. There, he would process blood work and pregnancy tests for local med offices, and his business skyrocketed quickly. Seeing that prescription drugs were way too expensive, and many could not afford them, Winter started a generic pharmaceuticals company. By 1959, he had to purchase a whole building for his operations and created Empire Laboratories Ltd. By 1964, it was Canada’s largest pharmaceutical, offered over 100 products, and supplied the US military through a branch in Puerto Rico. The following year, Winter’s life was cut short at the young age of 41 when he had a sudden aneurysm. 17 days later, his wife died of leukemia. The company was taken over by their nephew Bernard Charles Sherman (b. 1942). “Barry” Sherman lost his father when he was just 9, and grew up working for his uncle’s drug company. After graduating from the University of Toronto, then getting a Ph.D in astronautics at M.I.T, he was able to take charge of Empire. By 1974, he sold Empire and instead launched Apotex, growing it to become Canada’s largest generic drug maker. Today, the company ships its products to 115 countries and has branches in biotechnology, medical, and chemical research. Meanwhile, its charitable arm – the Apotex Foundation – has donated over $17 million in free medications. Sherman himself has donated over $50 million to the UJA, as well as a number of other philanthropic causes in the Toronto area and beyond. He is currently Canada’s 7th wealthiest man, and continues to head Apotex with a passion to bring affordable medication to the masses.
UPDATE: Tragically, Barry Sherman and his wife Honey Sherman were found dead in their home on December 15, 2017.
Words of the Week
Wherever I go, I’m always going to Israel. – Rebbe Nachman
Mary Elizabeth Kramer was born in Ohio and grew up attending church and Christian Sunday school. By high school, she was drawn to atheism and secularism, but ultimately found no solace in those philosophies either. While in university majoring in mathematics, she found herself exploring various religions. Studying in Germany one semester, she had an inexplicable yearning to attend a Passover seder, and there met an Australian rabbi with whom she continued learning, eventually undergoing a proper Orthodox Jewish conversion (and taking the name Malka). Back in college, she met her future husband – David Schaps – and both went on to earn PhDs at Harvard. The new couple then moved to Israel to teach, had two kids and two foster children. Malka Schaps joined Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Exact Sciences, researching advanced quantum spin representations, in addition to founding and running a financial math program. Meanwhile, Schaps has written a handful of popular, best-selling novels under the pen name “Rachel Pomerantz”. Despite being deeply involved in the scientific community, her faith has only strengthened, and she has said, “I always point out that the study of mathematics shares something in common with Judaism. They both seek to discern a greater order of things and the objective truth.” Recently, she was elected to be Dean of the Department of Exact Sciences at Bar-Ilan, making her the first Orthodox woman in the world to hold such a post. Schaps lives with her family in Bnei Brak.
Words of the Week
Why was the Torah given in the desert? For if it were given in the Land of Israel, the residents of the Land of Israel would say, “It is ours”; and if it were given in some other place, the residents of that place would say, “It is ours.” Therefore it was given in the wilderness, so that anyone who wishes to acquire it may acquire it. – Mechilta D’Rashbi