Happy 100th birthday to Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician portrayed in the movie “Hidden Figures.” As shown in the movie, she proposed using Euler’s method to compute trajectories and orbits for the first US astronauts, allowing safe journeys and landings. In her honor, we will add an Euler’s method problem to homework in our intro to programming course. See her entry at Wikipedia and news articles, e.g., here and here. See our previous blog post about Katherine.
I was interested to learn about the work of Margaret Hamilton, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday. As a young woman, she led a team that designed the flight control software for the Apollo moon landers. This period was during the early days of computer programming when software design practices were just starting to be invented. Hamilton developed a theory and methodology for “design before the fact” of fault-free and fault-tolerant, real-time software control systems. The class of systems considered are asynchronous, discrete-event systems. This includes chemical batch process scheduling and control. Our web apps simulate continuous processes. Design Before the Fact contrasts with the development strategy we use, as outlined in my last post, but we will learn from Hamilton’s work.
Also at the ceremony at the White House yesterday, Grace Hopper was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was an early pioneer in computing, invented the first software compiler, and popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages.
“The unbelievable life of the forgotten genius [Katherine Johnson] who turned Americans’ space dreams into reality” http://www.businessinsider.com/katherine-johnson-hidden-figures-nasa-human-computers-2016-8
“Throughout her education, she says she succeeded in part because she was always asking questions — even when people tried to ignore her, her hand stayed up.”
Trailer for upcoming movie about Katherine Johnson, Hidden Figures: http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/hidden-figures