Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton

Born: 1936

Margaret Hamilton is an American computer scientist whose contribution to the field began before computer science was recognised as a discipline. She coined the phrase ‘software engineering’ as a way of raising the status of software development in line with that of hardware.

Margaret was NASA’s lead developer for the on-board flight software for the Apollo space programme in the 1960s and 1970s, the era of the first moon landings. Programming at this point meant punching holes in stacks of cards that would be processed overnight on a giant mainframe computer. As a working mother in the 1960s, Margaret was unusual; but as a NASA programmer, she was positively radical. The photo of her standing next to her team’s stack of code from the Apollo 11 mission (see right) is now iconic. She has said that for her the software experience (designing, developing and learning from it) was as great as the mission itself because the whole team knew there were no second chances.

After NASA, Margaret founded and lead multiple software companies and received many awards. In 2016 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, the highest civilian award in the US. Along with many other female engineers, Margaret challenged male dominated areas of her time, creating an environment in which women could more easily enter STEM fields.

Margaret Hamilton was one of the women profiled in our Women in Computing Festival 2017 of entitled Where Did All the Women Go?. Click here for the Women in Computing timeline created for that event.




Photograph of Margaret Hamilton Click for a larger version

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