The human computers group photo in 1953. (Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech)
Photo above: Macie Roberts’ computing group circa 1955 (far right). Barbara Paulson is on the telephone (standing, back left). Helen Ling is at the second desk in the left row. (Credit: JPL)
Barbara “Barby” Canright was the first and joined California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1939. As the first female “human computer,” her job was to calculate anything from how many rockets were needed to make a plane airborne to what kind of rocket propellants were needed to propel a spacecraft.
It was the careful and precise hand-made calculations of these women that sent Voyager to explore the solar system, wrote the C and C++ programs that launched the first Mars rover and helped the U.S. put a man on the moon. Though rarely seen in the famous photos of NASA’s mission control, these early human computers contributed immeasurably to the success of the United States’ space program. Read More