Rise of the Rocket Girls

Rise of the Rocket Girls

The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars

eBook - 2016
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During World War Il, when the brand-new minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate jet velocities and plot missile trajectories, they recruited an elite group of young women--known as "computers"--who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design and helped bring about America's first ballistic missiles. But they were never interested in developing weapons--their hearts lay in the dream of space exploration. So when JPL became part of a new agency called NASA, the computers worked on the first probes to the moon, Venus, Mars, and beyond. Later, as digital computers largely replaced human ones, JPL was unique in training and retaining its brilliant pool of women. They became the first computer programmers and engineers, and through their efforts, we launched the ships that showed us the contours of our solar system. For the first time, this book tells the stories of these women who charted a course not only for the future of space exploration but also for the prospects of female scientists. Based on extensive research and interviews with the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science, illuminating both where we've been and the far reaches of where we're heading.--Adapted from dust jacket.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780316338912
0316338915
9780316268448
0316268445
0316338923
9780316338929
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xiii, 338 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates) : illustrations (some color).
Alternative Title: Rocket girls

Opinion

From Library Staff

The female computers of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory made guided missiles of WWII possible, along with the moonshots. As machines began to take over calculations, these women pioneered computer programming and are still a valuable asset for aerospace. The Rocket Girls also instigated more egalit... Read More »


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AL_ANNA Aug 13, 2017

Interesting section on the race to launch a USA orbital satellite before Sputnik. Alas, science often comes down to funding, public policy and political backing.

b
banv42
Jul 29, 2017

I need the book on September 11th 2017

m
MelissaYAReader
Nov 22, 2016

After reading Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly I wanted to find out more about the remarkable women who were used as human computers during the space race. These women were truly brilliant, calculating rocket trajectories by hand in a world where working women weren't the norm, and women with children were expected to stay home to raise their families. I loved how this book covered these women over time and showed how times began to change thanks to these brilliant ladies. I did listen to the audio book, and did find it difficult at times to keep track of some ladies, while others were easier to follow. Still, I loved this contribution to our history.

AL_LESLEY Nov 10, 2016

A light and easy read this history of the female 'computers' and engineers at JPL from the 1940s until today is a great story and an eye-opening one as concerns the role of female scientists and the history of space exploration as a whole.

w
WendyLC
Oct 25, 2016

I totally agree with the other commenter who mentioned the silliness about looks. The writing is very basic, 8th grade level, and while the science is explained as clearly as I've ever seen it explained, all the Young Miss writing about babies and beauty pageants turned my stomach.

Women have had it hard. Part of why, over my lifetime, is being seen as nothing but objects of others' gazes. We are supposed to look like something, not actually be something, know something, or do something. The author here is part of that problem, not part of its solution.

DBRL_IdaF Oct 08, 2016

An account of the women (human computers) who did so much to make the Jet Propulsion Lab what it is. Holt interviewed many of the women and members of their families, and does a good job intertwining the stories of their professional and personal lives.

It was almost happenstance that women played a key role from the beginning of rocket development and space exploration, just before World War II. JPL began as a college club with a small handful of members, but they were close friends with a young married couple, Richard and Barbara Canright. When the club got a research grant and developed into a business, the Canrights were their first two employees. Barbara, a math whiz, worked as a "computer", doing all of the mathematical computations by hand.

It was not happenstance that women came to dominate the computing department at JPL as the company grew. The work was one of the best paying jobs available for bright, math-oriented young women. The pioneers in the department made sure to seek out other women, mentoring them and finding ways to make their job work for them, even with the birth of babies (something that usually ended a woman's career back in the day.)

JPL was groundbreaking as well in integrating the workforce. Janez Lawson was the first African American woman hired in the department and one of the first to learn to program non-human computers. Helen Ling, a Chinese American, rose to head the department for many years and made great efforts to scout and mentor promising women, sending them for training as engineers. A quote from the book: "While protesters were demanding equal rights for women across the country, the women at JPL had created their own equality." By the 1990s, a woman, Sylvia Miller, was in charge of the Mars program.

Things I didn't know until I read this book: In the 1940's an interest in rocketry was considered quack science in a lot of circles. The first Mars images made it back to earth only days after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The Voyager was secretly programmed and built to do a much larger mission than had been approved by Congress, just in case..and the planning paid off, as its early success led them to approve the plans that had already been made behind their backs anyway.

A fascinating and inspiring read

a
athena14
Sep 08, 2016

Too many interruptions about their clothes and shoes and makeup. I didn't care about their femininity; I wanted to know about the science and math.

m
mammothhawk229e
Jun 15, 2016

Very interesting book on little known subject. Chuckled at sexist Miss Ballistic missile or Miss outer space before it was gone by woman liberation. Ditto the assorted computers with politically incorrect nicknames that supposed to help them. Amazed at the tight-knit group with lasting friendship.

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