American Computer Scientists Grace Hopper, Margaret Hamilton Receive Presidentia
President Barack Obama awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom to two storied women in tech -- one posthumously to Grace Hopper, known as the "first lady of software," and one to programmer Margaret Hamilton. Hopper worked on the Harvard Mark I computer, and invented the first compiler. "At age 37 and a full 15 pounds below military guidelines, the gutsy and colorful Grace joined the Navy and was sent to work on one of the first computers, Harvard's Mark 1," Obama said at the ceremony Tuesday. "She saw beyond the boundaries of the possible and invented the first compiler, which allowed programs to be written in regular language and then translated for computers to understand." Hopper followed her mother into mathematics, and earned a doctoral degree from Yale, Obama said. She retired from the Navy as a rear admiral. "From cell phones to Cyber Command, we can thank Grace Hopper for opening programming up to millions more people, helping to usher in the Information Age and profoundly shaping our digital world," Obama said. Hamilton led the team that created the onboard flight software for NASA's Apollo command modules and lunar modules, according to a White House release. "At this time software engineering wasn't even a field yet," Obama noted at the ceremony. "There were no textbooks to follow, so as Margaret says, 'there was no choice but to be pioneers.'" He added: "Luckily for us, Margaret never stopped pioneering. And she symbolizes that generation of unsung women who helped send humankind into space."