Born in 1933 in Birmingham, Alabama, Annie Easley began her career at NASA—then the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics—in her early twenties as a human "computer," performing complex mathematical calculations. She later became an adept computer programmer, using languages like the Formula Translating System, or Fortran, to support a number of NASA programs. Easley retired in 1989 after 34 years with the agency. She passed away on June 25, 2011.
This year, another glass ceiling broke when Karen Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win mathematics' prestigious Abel Prize. Her achievement no doubt inspired legions of young girls already passionate about STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—and served as a salute to the woman mathematicians who came before.
One such woman is NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who once said of her love of math, "I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did.”
Here, for National Women's History Month, we honor some coding pioneers whose careful calculations led to many of the world's greatest technological advances, from programming the first computers to successfully putting humans on the moon.