The young mother who wrote the code that put man on the moon – honoring the legacy of Margaret Hamilton

We knew we wanted to honor Women’s History Month in a special way, and it took us a while to decide how. And then, we figured it out: Let’s honor the woman who is responsible for coining the term ‘software engineer.’ Let’s honor the brilliant mind who put man on the moon, and software on the map. Let’s honor Margaret Hamilton.

If you don’t know her story, and you’re in the developer world, you might want to look her up; her achievements, even to this day, have made phenomenal impact in the world of computer science. And that’s why we’ve decided on this historically significant, powerful woman coder to represent our $4,000 award, available to all of Coding Dojo’s future software prodigies
— woman, man, anyone — for our March cohort.

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$4,000 Award

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Born in Indiana, Hamilton was always gifted in mathematics. She earned her bachelor’s degree in the subject at University of Michigan and Earlham College before taking a temporary gig at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There, she began her days of programming on the world’s first computers, defying the odds in a male-dominated industry. She developed “weather prediction software for Professor Edward N. Lorenz on the Librascop LGP-30 and PDP-1 computers,” while her husband studied at Harvard Law. At the time, it was common place for a Harvard wife to “pour tea” for her husband’s lawyer friends, raise children, and keep the home.

Yet, that wasn’t at all what Hamilton had planned. After working with Lorenz, she postponed attending graduate school a second time to work on the US SAGE air defense system. There, she started working on software reliability, and would bring her daughter into work on nights and weekends. Hamilton, with a then 4-year-old daughter, got busy programming error detection and recovery programs, simulating space conditions and reenacting the impending astro-endeavors. With the wrong flip of a switch, Hamilton’s daughter revealed a bug, and ended up leading the young mother down a path toward developing emergency priority displays that saved the lives, and the mission, of those on-board of Apollo 11’s moon landing.

“She culminated the Apollo effort by leading her team in performing an empirical analysis based on lessons learned from the development of the Apollo on-board flight software. These lessons were formalized into a theory for systems and software, which serves as the origin and much of the foundation of Hamilton’s Universal Systems Language (USL),” explains the Computer History Museum website. Hamilton received the NASA Exceptional Space Act Award in 2003, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2016, the highest and most prestigious award given in the United States.

With all that, we thought it was beyond the right fit to select Hamilton as the right woman to symbolize our Women’s History Month award, for this year and years to come. Any student who enrolls and places a deposit by March 18, 2019, for our March cohort can receive our Margaret Hamilton Award, worth $4,000 off the cost of tuition. This award applies to all full-time, part-time, onsite or online bootcamp programs. To receive the award, submit your application and a short-form essay.

Truthfully, you very well could be the next Hamilton, landing dreams beyond imagination.


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