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Astra's Featured Biographies of Extraordinary Women

Welcome to the Astra's gallery of biographies representing Starwimin and others with important biographies and interesting stories. Usually at least one link to a site with reliable information will be given so that a more in-depth study of an individual may be undertaken. Many of the biographies here could rate their own page - - but until they are posted, enjoy these.

Grace Hopper

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper with American Flag
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

Born in New York City in December 1906, Grace Hopper had three siblings. Her parents were Walter Murray and Mary Van Horne. Grace was admitted to Vassar College at age 17, continuing her education until she earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University in 1934. She was married to Vincent Hopper in 1930 but was divorced in 1945. She taught mathematics at Vassar College from 1931 to 1943 when she joined the Navy Reserves during World War II. She trained at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School at Smith College and graduated first in her class. In 1944, she was assigned to Harvard University where she worked on the Mark I computer programming staff.

An early computer pioneer, Grace was hired at Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation where she helped develop the UNIVAC computer as a senior mathematician. Holding to her belief that a programming language could be based on words, she developed the first operational compiler. In 1967, she was recalled by the Navy where she rose in rank and served until 1986. Due to wide range of Rear Admiral Hopper's accomplishments as a pioneering computer scientist and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as " Amazing Grace".

The " Grace Hopper Celebration of Women In Computing Conference " is an annual technical conference that encourages women to enter the field of computing, and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) offers the "Grace Murray Hopper Award" to women (age 35+) who have made outstanding contributions in the computer science field.

USS Hopper (DDG-70)

The United States Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer is named for the pioneering computer scientist Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. The ship was built in Bath, Maine, and was christened in January 1996.

- -See the USS Hopper

Nancy Grace Roman

Nancy Grace Roman
Nancy Grace Roman

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 16, 1925, Nancy Grace Roman was an only child. Her father was Irwin Roman, a geophysicist and her mother, Georgia Smith was a piano teacher. The family moved often because of the oil company Irwin worked for so Nancy lived in four states before she was three.

Nancy earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy from Swarthmore in 1946 and a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1949. She worked at Yerkes Observatory for six years, while there she observed the star AG Draconis and discovered that its emission spectrum had changed from earlier observations. This discovery helped to increase Nancy's status as an astronomer. AG Draconis is a double star, a red giant with a white dwarf companion.

In 1954, she took a position at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and worked in radio astronomy. She became the head of the microwave spectroscopy section of the radio astronomy program. She was consulted many times, including work on the Vanguard satellite program, her first experience with the NASA space program.

Known sometimes as the "Mother of Hubble" , Nancy Grace Roman was hired by NASA in 1959 to help set up the Office of Space Science. In 1960, she was made the Chief of Astronomy the first woman to hold an executive position at NASA. Nancy was instrumental in developing the agency’s many space telescopes.

The picture here shows Nancy with a model of the Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO). Nancy was in charge of the OSO program. It consisted of 8 satellites, the first one successfully launched in February 1962 and was designated OSO-2.

Other astronomical satellites that Nancy Roman oversaw reads like a list of who's who of orbital astronomical observatories. Among these include the Small Astronomy Satellite series: SAS-1,the X-ray explorer Uhuru; SAS-2, a gamma ray observatory that discovered Geminga an interest gamma source; SAS-3, an X-ray telescope named Copernicus. She was involved with Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS), Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE). She was also involved with astronomical experiments on Spacelab, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab. Nancy also led NASA’s airborne astronomy program, putting telescopes on airplanes. This enabled NASA to fly a 12-inch telescope on a Learjet and a 36-inch telescope for the Kuiper Airborne Observatory. She even helped to put astronomical experiments on balloons.

Perhaps the most important telescope Nancy helped to launch into in orbit was the Hubble Space Telescope. Nancy gave public lectures about the scientific value of such a facility. In 1971, Nancy set up the Science Steering Group for the Large Space Telescope, and appointed NASA engineers and other astronomers to the group. They were to design a useful orbiting space telescope observatory that was possible for NASA to build.

Retiring in 1979 to care for her ailing mother, Nancy finished work on the telescope program to complete the contract selection process. Nancy was interested in computer programming because she thought she could continue the research she left behind as a young woman. She audited a course at Montgomery College and started to work as a consultant for Old Republic International Corporation (ORI), a government contractor. Eventually she went to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and began working in the Astronomical Data Center. In 1997 Nancy left contract work at NASA and began teaching advanced junior high and high school students and K-12 science teachers as well as those in under-served districts. For ten years she recorded astronomical textbooks for Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic.

Nancy Grace Roman Telescope

NASA renamed the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) in honor of Nancy Grace Roman in May of 2020. It will be an orbiting observatory designed to work on dark energy and exoplanets. The primary mirror is to be 7.9 feet (2.4m) in diameter. Two instruments are planned: A Wide Field Instrument and a complex stellar Coronagraph to study nearby exoplanets.

- -See the Telescope

Nancy's autobiography is a superb reference also a source for this biography:

Nancy Grace Roman and the Dawn of Space Astronomy - Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics Vol. 57:1-34 (August 2019)

Stay tuned for more short biographical stories at Astra's Stargate !

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