Margaret Heafield Hamilton (born August 17, 1936) is an American computer scientist, systems engineer, and business owner. She was Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed on-board flight software for the Apollo space program. In 1986, she became the founder and CEO of Hamilton Technologies, Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The company was developed around the Universal Systems Language based on her paradigm of Development Before the Fact (DBTF) for systems and software design.
Hamilton has published over 130 papers, proceedings, and reports about the 60 projects and six major programs in which she has been involved.
On November 22, 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Barack Obama for her work leading the development of on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo Moon missions.
Hamilton then joined the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory at MIT, which at the time was working on the Apollo space mission. She eventually led a team credited with developing the software for Apollo and Skylab.Hamilton’s team was responsible for developing in-flight software, which included algorithms designed by various senior scientists for the Apollo command module, lunar lander, and the subsequent Skylab.
In 2003, she was given the NASA Exceptional Space Act Award for scientific and technical contributions. The award included $37,200, the largest amount awarded to any individual in NASA’s history.
In 2016, she was named as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United State.
The lead for MIT’s nascent software engineering division, who wrote software for Apollo 11’s guidance and navigation, and also the person who coined the term ‘software engineering’ — was awarded the United States’ highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Another part of her team designed and developed the systems software which included the error detection and recovery software such as restarts and the Display Interface Routines (AKA the Priority Displays) which Hamilton designed and developed.