It has been 33 years since Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month, a month dedicated to the celebration and education of the contributions, achievements and the incredible women who have shaped our present with their acts in the past. With NASA’s plan to send the first woman to the moon by 2024, we decided to shine a spotlight and celebrate five inspiring ladies who each in their own way helped us to learn, love and get to the moon.
Maria’s Moon: Full Moon (May 27th, 1676)
Maria Clara Eimmart (1676 –1707) ~ Astronomical Artist
Under a Full Moon in May of 1676, Maria Clara Eimmart was born. She created over 350 illustrations of moon phases and produced a collection of drawings called Micrographia stellarum phases lunae ultra 300 (try to say that 3 times fast) that were prized for their incredible precision. Using a powerful telescope and bright blue paper her work was not only breath-taking but became the base of a new lunar map.
Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852) ~ An Enchantress of Numbers
Known as the world’s first computer programmer, Ada’s brilliance in mathematics allowed her to conceptualize the ideas behind the modern computer and publish the first computer algorithm. Today, the Pentagon and US military’s programmers use a computing language named Ada, in her honour. It was officially accepted on her birthday, under a Waxing Crescent Moon and so for Ada’s moon let us celebrate the day she was forever honoured.
Ada’s Moon: Waxing Crescent (December 10th, 1980)
Thereza Dillwyn Llewelyn (1834 – 1926) ~ Selenophotographer
It can be said that Thereza had a pretty sweet sixteenth birthday – as she received a most unconventional present, an astronomical observatory. She laid the foundation stone of the observatory in July of 1851 under a Waxing Gibbous Moon and little did she know how impactful she would be. In the comforts of her own backyard she was able to take photographic images of the moon, some of the earliest ever taken.
Thereza’s Moon: Waxing Gibbous (July 7th, 1851)
Credit: The British Library
Dorothy Vaughan (1910- 2008) ~ NASA Human Computer
In 1943, two years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 which prohibited discrimination, ethnic or racial in federal agencies, Dorothy Vaughan came to work for NASA. A mathematician and a “human computer” born under a Full Moon, she performed complex computations and analyzed data for aerospace engineers. She became the first African American supervisor in 1949 and continued to helm the West Computing Division for nearly a decade.
Dorothy’s Moon: Full Moon (September 20th, 1910)
Margaret Hamilton (1936- present) ~ Software Engineer
In November of 2016 at the age of 80, Margaret Hamilton was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S President Barack Obama under a Waning Crescent moon. She received this award for her contributions to on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s. Her team and her software engineering were an integral part in space exploration. Margaret’s work has been called the “foundation for ultra-reliable software design”. And, I guess we can say that it took a woman to get man to the moon.
Margaret's Moon: Waning Crescent (November 22nd, 2016)
Credit: MIT Museum