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More Than A Human Computer

March 26, 2020

by Aaron Pflug • Kidzeum Staff

Progress isn’t just the result of work done by a few brilliant individuals – even if history sometimes makes it seem that way! Let’s take a moment to credit and celebrate one of the lesser-known champions of science and technology!

Like last week, today’s subject was a STEM/STEAM champion who operated during a time not-so-long ago but oh-so-different than our own. Computers were rudimentary by today’s standards and not yet capable (or trusted) to do the most important or time-consuming equations necessary for work in fields like astrophysics or rocket science. Instead, people were responsible for writing the complex equations and solving the seemingly impossible problems.

Annie Easley

And being a human computer was a decent career at the time (compared to other “opportunities”), especially for an African-American woman. But it was just a start for Annie Easley.

When computers became more accepted and commonplace, Annie Easley transitioned from the pure mathematics of human computing to programming the computers replacing her. No problem, right?

But, her most out-of-this-world contributions came in the field of rocketry! Annie Easley played an important role in the development and success of the Centaur upper stage rocket. The Centaur is still among the top upper stage rockets today. Such longevity is rare in modern times!

Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1933, Annie Easley was no stranger to racism and segregation, nor was she unaffected by the obstacles facing women. Throughout her life and career, Easley never succumbed to pressures or shrank away from the obstacles she faced. She even put her experiences to work for others by regularly taking part in outreach and educational programs (especially promoting STEM/STEAM careers to minorities and women) and, later in her career, becoming an equal employment opportunity counselor.

Her professional contributions and her legacy as an advocate are certainly worth remembering. Annie Easley is a true champion of science and technology!

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