Who was Margaret H. Hamilton?
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 made a safe landing on the Moon and successfully returned to Earth. Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., as well as Michael Collins who remained in orbit piloting the command module, were all celebrated for their hard work during the mission.
No one acknowledged Margaret Hamilton, without whom the Moon would not have been reached. Hamilton was born in Indiana in 1936. In 1958, with an undergraduate degree in maths, she got a job so she could support her husband through three years at Harvard Law school.
She took a position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and wrote weather prediction software for the newly founded computer technology. There were no classes on computer programming, and Hamilton and her colleagues were largely self-taught.
She was put in charge of code writing for the Apollo missions and was the Director of the Software Engineering Division at MIT’s Instrumentation Laboratory. Hamilton coined the name, “software engineering”. Written on paper, the stack of her coding books was as tall as she was.
She is also the founder of the Universal Systems Language for computers. Hamilton set up a software company (Hamilton Technologies, Inc) that focuses on preventive methods rather than the constant testing methods prevalent in today’s software engineering. She was eventually awarded the NASA Exceptional Space Act Award in 2003 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.