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Comparing and Contrast Jean Bartik and Margaret Hamilton

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Computer Science
Wordcount: 1327 words Published: 29th Aug 2017

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Software engineering; hearing this term brings to mind words corresponding to innovating, analyzing complex problems, designing software, and maintenance of programs. People picture a  stubborn nerd who only knows how to communicate with computers. It is a common misconception that in the field of technology, males are dominating all the positions that are available. Despite all that, Jean Bartik, a pioneer software engineer of ENIAC, and Margaret Hamilton, software engineer of the Apollo 11 mission showed history that women are a force to be reckoned with in the field of technology.

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Jean Bartik and Margaret Hamilton were both born and raised in America and performed spectacularly in their education. Jean Bartik was born as Betty Jean Jennings in Gentry County, Missouri on the 27th of December 1924. Bartik was the sixth of seven children so life hasn’t really been easy for her and her siblings. She began her education at a local one-room school and easily gained local attention for her talent in softball.

Bartik was at Northwest Missouri Teachers College majoring in mathematics with a minor in English in 1941 when the Pearl Harbor was bombed. Jennings always dreamed of traveling out of the Midwest and having a real adventure in the world. One could say she got her adventure she was looking for when suddenly, the school was emptied of its male students, who either had been drafted for the war or enlisted for the cause. She experienced having sailors that was sent into her school as classmates for officers training. Jennings was the only women and civilian in class. Nevertheless, she didn’t let such events distract her from her education. After a few years, she finished her master’s degree in English at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967.

Margaret Hamilton was born as Margaret Heafield Hamilton in Paoli, Indiana, on the 17th of August 1936. Unlike Bartik, Hamilton was born an only child. She graduated high school from Hancock High School in 1954. She started getting her education in mathematics at the University of Michigan in 1955 and subsequently earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in philosophy from Earlham College in 1958. She moved to Boston, Massachusetts, with the goal of achieving a graduate study in abstract mathematics at Brandeis University.

The career path these exceptional women took was groundbreaking.  Margaret Hamilton, upon graduation taught temporarily high school French and mathematics to help her husband finish his undergraduate study in Harvard University. She was employed at the SAGE Project at Lincoln lab from 1961 to 1963, where she was one of the programmers who coded the software for the pioneer command system computer to search for an enemy aircraft. She also coded software for the Air force Cambridge Research Laboratories.

To add to the exciting life of Hamilton, she was assigned as director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. The MIT Instrumentation Laboratory was given the task for developing the software for the NASA Apollo programs. Hamilton, then in her early 30s, supervised a team of 100 engineers, mathematicians, programmers and technical writers. The team developed the code for the Apollo Guidance Computer. Realizing her expertise in the field of technology, she established the Hamilton Technologies, Inc in Cambridge Massachusetts. The Company provides products and services that modernize systems engineering and software development.

At the young age of 20. Jean Bartik pursued to apply for IBM and the University of Pennsylvania. After a few days, she received a rejection notice from IBM by not meeting all of their standards. On the bright side, Jennings received a telegram from the University of Pennsylvania that she was hired.  To her surprise, the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering, where the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground had a project, was seeking female math majors. Even though her friends was against with this idea, Bartik’s professors in math pushed her to take on this opportunity. Bartik applied and got hired as a so-called human computer, an employee who calculated bullet trajectories through the help of high end mathematical calculators during her time.

These two-powerful females made legacy on their respected field and the world made sure to acknowledge their skills.   As a dedication to the history of computing and Bartik’s career, Jean Jennings Bartik Computing Museum at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri was named after her to show the appreciation of the museum to her computing of bullet trajectories manually. Content-management framework Drupal’s default theme, Bartik, was also named in honor of her. In the year of 1997, Bartik was acknowledge in the Inductee, Women in Technology International Hall of Fame. In 2008, she received two awards. One from the fellow, Computer History Museum which honors the exceptional technology pioneers who have changed the world with their achievements. The IEEE Computer Pioneer Award, IEEE Computer Society, for pioneering her work as one of the programmers of ENIAC, and leading the work on BINAC and UNIVAC I. In year 2009, she received the Korenman Award from the Multinational Center for Development of Women in Technology.

In 1986, Margaret Hamilton received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award by the Association for Women in Computing. This award is given to individuals who have excelled in either (or both) of two areas: 1. Outstanding scientific and technical achievement and 2. Extraordinary service to the computing community through their accomplishments and contributions on behalf of women in computing. In 2003, she was given the NASA Exceptional Space Act Award for scientific and technical contributions. In 2009, she received the Outstanding Alumni Award by Earlham College. In 2016, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, the highest civilian honor in the United States. Margaret Hamilton became famous as the “woman who brought man to the moon”.

Margaret Hamilton and Jean Bartik proved to the world that women can do outstanding things in technology just as men can. Even though they were born in time where in women was doubted to perform in the field of science and mathematics, they pursued the profession they want with passion, analytical skills and perseverance.


IEEE Computer Society. (n. a.). Betty Jean Jennings Bartik. Retrieved from. https://www.computer.org/web/awards/pioneer-betty-jean-bartik

MIT News.  (2016, November 17). Apollo code developer Margaret Hamilton receives Presidential Medal of Freedom. Retrieved from. http://news.mit.edu/2016/apollo-code-developer-margaret-hamilton-receives-presidential-medal-of-freedom-1117

New England Historical Society. (n. ­a.). Margaret Hamilton, the Woman who put the Man on the Moon. Retrieved from. http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/margaret-hamilton-the-woman-who-put-the-man-on-the-moon/

Smith, Gina. (2007, December 3). Unsung innovators: Jean Bartik, ENIAC programmer Retrieved from. http://www.computerworld.com/article/2540042/it-management/unsung-innovators–jean-bartik–eniac-programmer.html


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