The Gemini 3 Group Lecture
During World War II, when the newly created Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate jet velocities and plot missile trajectories, they recruited an elite group of young women – known as human computers – who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design and helped bring about America’s first ballistic missiles.
But they were never interested in developing weapons – their hearts lay in the dream of space exploration. So when JPL became part of a new agency called NASA, the computers worked on the first probes to the moon, Venus, Mars, and beyond. Later, as digital computers largely replaced human ones, JPL was unique in training and retaining its brilliant pool of women. They became the first computer programmers and engineers, and through their efforts, we launched the ships that showed us the contours of our solar system.
Nathalia Holt will tell the stories of these women who charted a course not only for the future of space exploration but also for the prospects of female scientists.
Speaker: Nathalia Holt
Nathalia studied at the University of Southern California, Tulane University, and Humboldt State University. In addition, her research as a science writer has included work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory archives, the Caltech library, and the Schlesinger library on the history of women in America at Harvard. Prior to the publication of the Rise of the Rocket Girls (2016), Holt published Cured: The People Who Defeated HIV (2015), which discusses the scientific complexities of two patients who have been exceptions to the usual procession of AIDS. In addition, her work appears in The Atlantic.