No, she was not anENIACorUNIVACor any such room-sized piece of hardware. (Although some of my friends might think that this explains a lot about my personality.) This is my mother we're talking about here!
Instead, she assisted aerospace engineers by completing computations from their designs/equations. Mom, working with a team of other human "computers", performed the math by hand (using pencil, paper, slide rule – state-of-the-art tools). She finally did gain access to a real computer (fed by punch cards) to help her with the math, but this was at the very end of her computational career – just before I was born in 1968.
Until the day I was born, Mom worked for Calspan, an engineering firm with a number of government and military contracts. 22 years later, I took my first post-college job at Calspan (purely by coincidence – Mom hadn't worked there since my birth). As a technical writer in 1990, my state-of-the-art tools were also pencil and paper. (By this time, computer systems were very much the norm and this particular work situation was simply antiquated.)
What a great poll, Kate. Chris- your mother sounds like a truly phenomenal woman. Science, space and engineering have always enchanted me. Thank you for sharing this inspiring, and very lovable story about a very important woman in your life.
My mother used to take her medical students with her to her clinics around the state as part of their rotations in Pediatrics. A lot of medicines for children need to have the dosage adjusted to match the weight of the child. My mother could always calculate the dosages using her pocket slide rule before the medical students could even finish entering the numbers into their calculators.
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