Scientist Spotlight: Margaret Hamilton

Happy 80th Birthday Margaret Hamilton! Born August 17, 1936, Margaret Hamilton grew up in Indiana and earned a BA in mathematics from Earlham College. While her husband finished college, she taught french and math at a high school.

Margaret moved to Boston in 1958 and got a job at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developing software to predict the weather. She eventually became the director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory and led a team of 100 engineers, programmers, and technical workers. Margaret’s team was tasked with developing the code for the Apollo Guidance Computer. This was essential as it was the software that helped Apollo 11 land on the Moon.

A few minutes before the landing, the Apollo computer began spitting out error messages because it was being overloaded with information. This was no issue for Margaret, however, because she anticipated the issue. Margaret realized that the computer was being inundated with other tasks when all it really needed to do was land the module on the moon. So, she prioritized the tasks the computer was doing and prevented a aborted mission.

Margaret’s work allowed Neil Armstrong to make giant leaps, but she also made giant leaps as a woman in the programming field. She even coined the term “software engineering.” Margaret has found and led many  software companies, including her own Hamilton Technologies.

In 2003, Margaret was honored with the NASA Exceptional Space Act Award.

 

For more information on Margaret:

Margaret Hamilton, the Woman Who Put the Man on the Moon

Margaret Hamilton, the Woman Who Put the Man on the Moon

 

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