A T N F    D a i l y    A s t r o n o m y    P i c t u r e

2nd of March 2021
Women in History: Helen Ling
by Chenoa Tremblay
Way before we had electronic computers that we can carry in our pockets we had human computers that performed mathematical operations, often for scientific or engineering purposes. Helen Ling lead a team of female only human computers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the early 1950’s to 1960’s. It is often noted that Helen sought after women who had a natural talent for maths and encouraged them to get a secondary degree so she could hire them.

Helen was born in China and emigrated to the United States to attend College. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame and was the only women majoring in mathematics. Helen’s brother worked at JPL and she thought a job there would be perfect for her. She took on the position to lead the team of computers and the group called themselves “Helen’s Girls” as she was an inspiration and a mentor to them all. Engineers would submit jobs to Helen to have “her girls” compute trajectories for many space-based missions and hand them back to the engineers. Helen also developed software for missions such as IRAS, Magellan, and TOPEX/Poseidon spacecraft. The image above shows Barbara Paulson, Vickie Wang and Helen Ling socializing over lunch. (Image credit: JPL) If you want to learn more about Helen Ling and her amazing team, I would recommend checking out “The Rise of the Rocket Girls” by Nathalia Holt.

March is Women's History Month and this week we are celebrating the careers of women in science.

<<   |   archive   |   about   |   today   *   ATNF   |   Parkes   |   ATCA   |   Mopra   |   VLBI   |   ASKAP   |   >>