Hidden Heroines: How One Woman's Coding put Humans on the Moon

Hidden Heroines: How One Woman's Coding put Humans on the Moon

Wednesday, 7th of December

You might have heard of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. But what about Grace Hopper or Margaret Hamilton? Our #HiddenHeroines series shines a light on inspirational women who used STEM to change the way we live forever.

Sorry, who?

Margaret Hamilton: American computer scientist, systems engineer, business owner and all-round tech badass.

Interesting. What did she do?

Just changed the course of history by developing the software that helped Buzz and his pals land on the moon in 1969. And she basically invented the term “software engineering”, nbd.

How?

Margaret Hamilton wasn’t meant to change the world. Her husband expected the 24-year-old Maths grad to teach while he enrolled at Harvard Law School. But Mrs Hamilton had other ideas.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (one of the biggest and best unis in the US) were looking for the brightest brains to work on their massive Apollo Space Program. They heard about Margaret’s background and made her an offer. She accepted and, of course, was instantly hooked.

Mrs Hamilton starred on the prgramme, leading a team that created the on-board flight software for Nasa’s moon missions. The pioneering code she wrote by hand helped land the first spacecraft and its crew on the moon in 1969.

Impressive. But why should we care?

Without her code, the whole Nasa project would probably have fell apart. But more than that she challenged a male-dominated field and paved the way for other talented women like her to conquer software. As President Obama put it: Mrs Hamilton is a "symbol of a generation of unsung women who helped send men into space."

What happened next?

Mrs Hamilton continued to come up with innovations for Nasa before becoming CEO of a software business. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her services to technology by President Obama in November 2016. Not bad, eh.

Inspired by this story? Learn key STEM skills and immerse yourself in the techosphere with our snazzy new Digial Explorers Hub, created in partnership with Tata Consultancy Services.

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