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Nov 24, 2016 09:06 AM EST

Margaret Hamilton, MIT’s Pioneer Computer Scientist Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

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This week 21 individuals are recognized and awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor. One of them is Margaret Hamilton, a pioneer computer scientist honored for her contributions to software engineering and development.

A STEM icon for women, Ms. Hamilton literally brought us to the moon. She was part of the Instrumentation Laboratory and was head of the Software Engineering Division when the a major Apollo program contract was awarded to MIT on August 9, 1961.

The Instrumentation Laboratory were to develop the Apollo's guidance and control system. A major component of the race to put man on the moon by the end of the decade.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to individuals who have made exceptionally meritorious contributions to national interests of the US, private or public endeavors that have significant cultural impact and efforts for world peace. The medal will be presented by the sitting president.

Pres. Barack Obama announced the 21 awardees for the 2016 Medals of Freedom last week and an awarding ceremony was held in Washington on November 22. Other Winners from MIT include Architect Frank Gehry and another pioneer computer scientist, Grace Hopper.

MIT News reported that Ms. Hamilton is honored for her outstanding work and contribution "to concept of asynchronous software, priority scheduling and priority display, and human-in-the-loop decision capability, which set the foundation for modern, ultra-reliable software design and engineering."

An honor well-deserved for an astounding career: Margaret Hamilton graduated from Earlham College with a degree in mathematics and took her post graduate in meteorology at MIT eventually joining the Instrumentation Laboratory. After her work with the Apollo project Ms. Hamilton moved to the Lincoln Laboratory to work on the SAGE project.

SAGE or Semi-Automatic Ground Environment Air Defense System is the country's first air defense system that made groundbreaking advances in digital computing back in the 1950s and 60s. Later, Ms. Hamilton became a consultant for NASA's Skylab and space shuttle programs before moving into the private sector and starting her own company.

Apart from her now famous photo with the printout of MIT's Apollo Code, the code itself has now been uploaded in it's entirety on the code-sharing website GitHub. The first lines of the code reads: SUBMITTED: MARGARET H. HAMILTON DATE: 28 MAR 69 / M.H.HAMILTON, COLOSSUS PROGRAMMING LEADER / APOLLO GUIDANCE AND NAVIGATION.

One colossus programming leader she is indeed.

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