Margaret Hamilton – American computer scientist and systems engineer – was born on August 17, 1936 in Paoli, Indiana.

Hamilton majored in mathematics and minored in philosophy for her B.A. degree. She intended to do graduate study in abstract mathematics at Brandeis University, but took an interim job at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) on a project to develop weather prediction software. It was the early 1960s when software development was in its infancy, and programmers learned as they worked. Discovering that she had a flair for the work, the PhD was abandoned.

Her success at MIT led her to NASA as lead developer for Apollo flight software. Hamilton invented the term software engineering to describe what they were doing. It became recognized as an engineering discipline. Her rigorous systems approach to the Apollo software was essential to its success. She said about Apollo, “There was no second chance. We all knew that.” When no bugs were found in any of the crewed Apollo missions, the software was adapted for Skylab and the Space Shuttle.

Margaret Hamilton standing next to the navigation software that she and her MIT team produced for the Apollo Project.

Mona Evans
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