Earlham Grad to Receive Highest Civilian Honor

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Hamilton next to the navigation software that she and her MIT team produced for the Apollo project (MIT/Draper Laboratory) Hamilton next to the navigation software that she and her MIT team produced for the Apollo project (MIT/Draper Laboratory)

A graduate of Earlham College in Richmond will receive the nation's highest civilian honor Tuesday from President Barack Obama. Margaret Hamilton, who helped create the onboard flight software for NASA's Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs, is one of 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Hamilton graduated from Earlham in 1958, majoring in mathematics and philosophy. The university says she deferred entry into a doctoral program in abstract mathematics to work on the space program. Hamilton directed the on-board flight software project for the Apollo and Skylab programs, while helping define system software requirements for the Space Shuttle program, according to Earlham.

"On behalf of the entire Earlham community, I congratulate Margaret Hamilton on this incredible and well deserved honor," said Earlham President David Dawson. "Margaret is a wonderful example of what we hope for all Earlhamites: that they will be able to use their intelligence, multidisciplinary interests, curiosity and innovative spirit to contribute to positive change in the world. In particular, she is an inspiration to young women scientists who can look at her as a reminder for what is possible. Her incredible accomplishments make us all proud to be Earlhamites."

Hamilton will receive the award alongside Ellen DeGeneres, Robert DeNiro, Bill and Melinda Gates, Tom Hanks and Michael Jordan, among others. Another computer scientist, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, known as "the first lady of software," will also receive the award posthumously.

The award ceremony will be live streamed at the White House website.

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