Cover image for Rise of the rocket girls : the women who propelled us, from missiles to the moon to Mars
Title:
Rise of the rocket girls : the women who propelled us, from missiles to the moon to Mars
Author:
Holt, Nathalia, 1980- , author.
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
Physical Description:
xiii, 338 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Summary:
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.
Language:
English
Contents:
January 1958 : Launch day -- 1940s. Up, up, and away ; Headed west -- 1950s. Rockets rising ; Miss Guided Missile ; Holding back ; Ninety days and ninety minutes ; Moonglow -- 1960s. Analog overlords ; Planetary pull ; The last queen of outer space -- 1970s-today. Men are from Mars ; Look like a girl.
ISBN:
9780316338929
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

" If Hidden Figures has you itching to learn more about the women who worked in the space program, pick up Nathalia Holt's lively, immensely readable history, Rise of the Rocket Girls ." -- Entertainment Weekly

The riveting true story of the women who launched America into space.

In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn't turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.

For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women--known as "human computers"--who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we've been, and the far reaches of space to which we're heading.


Author Notes

Nathalia Holt is the author of Cured: The People Who Defeated HIV and a former Fellow at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT, and Harvard University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Popular Science, and Time. She lives in Boston.


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Wow! Talk about forgotten history! Holt (Cured: The People Who Defeated HIV, 2014), tackles the lost story of women at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, giving readers not only an inside look at how it came to have the highest percentage of female employees in NASA but also how JPL itself was formed and how its revolutionary projects (Voyager, Mars rovers) were developed. Those interested in space history will find much to enjoy here, but it is the stories of the women involved, highlighted in sections by decade, that commands attention. Their role as computers individuals capable of making blazingly fast calculations of the highest math was critical to JPL's success, and their department became a bastion for women in the workplace. The computers worked long hours, married, had children, left to raise families, and often returned out of longing for the achievements possible at JPL. Holt interviewed many of them and mined existing histories for insights, and her stellar research is evident on every page. This is an excellent contribution to American history, valuable not only for what it reveals about the space program and gender equality but even more as great reading. Book clubs will be lining up.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2016 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Holt (Cured), a microbiologist and science writer, honors the lives and work of the women who provided the fledgling Jet Propulsion Lab with computing power, in this accessible and human-centered history. The JPL began in the late 1930s as a tight-knit group of enthusiastic male rocket designers (known as the Suicide Squad) who met at the Caltech campus. They were backed up by an all-female group of human "computers" who were responsible for solving-by hand-the math that powered the men's designs. The women had all excelled in math, physics, chemistry, and engineering-often they were the only women in their classes-but no company would hire one as an engineer or scientist. The JPL allowed them to put their skills to work in a field that would grow from "fringe science" to cutting-edge space exploration. Holt cheerfully describes the women of JPL (and JPL itself), their triumphs, and the inevitable questions about when they would marry and quit working to raise families. The 1960s brought birth control pills, pantsuits, and changing attitudes about women's roles, just as JPL was expanding human knowledge of the solar system. Holt's accessible and heartfelt narrative celebrates the women whose crucial roles in American space science often go unrecognized. Illus. Agent: Laurie Abkemeier, DeFiore and Company. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

In her latest offering, Holt (Cured: The People Who Defeated HIV) turns her attention to the women who served as "human computers"-people who computed data-for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), focusing on the laboratory's inception in the 1940s through the 1960s. These women did not occupy the usual positions open to females at the time (secretaries, nurses, or teachers) but instead worked alongside engineers to calculate trajectories, identify how rocket fuel could make missiles fly, and analyze vast experimental data. The book discusses JPL's evolution from an army-funded missile lab to its place in the NASA space program, and how each stage in the transition affected the lives and work of the individuals who would later become computer programmers and engineers themselves. Holt focuses on key figures in the JPL computing department, offering a personalized look at these unconventional women and their roles in launching humanity skyward. VERDICT Holt seamlessly blends the technical aspects of rocket science and mathematics with an engaging narrative, making for an imminently readable and well-researched work. Highly recommended to readers with an interest in the U.S. space program, -women's history, and 20th-century history. [See "Editors' Spring Picks," LJ 2/15/16, p. 28.]-Crystal Goldman, Univ. of California, San Diego Lib. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

We take so much for granted now, but in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, women who wanted a career other than homemaker were mostly limited to becoming teachers, nurses, or secretaries, and there was no such thing as maternity leave. However, a few smart young women who loved math were hired to be human computers for the Jet Propulsion Lab in California. What we think of as computers now hadn't been invented yet. These women spent their days writing equations and computing numbers with pencils, paper, and slide rules to give the male engineers the information they needed to build rockets, satellites, and space shuttles. This selection will surprise and thrill teens not only because it honors the crucial work of these female scientists but also because it shows their individual humanity-their favorite fashions, their personal relationships-within the broader context of the international space race, changes in U.S. society brought about by feminism and integration, and transformations in American daily life brought about by evolving technology. Teen book clubs will enjoy discussing the pros and cons of all-female work groups, the costs and benefits of space exploration, and more. Readers will want to search online for information about the Juno probe, mentioned in the "1970s-Today" section as orbiting Jupiter in July 2016. The extensive notes section details the many first-person interviews conducted by the author, plus the archival materials she used. VERDICT An engaging, inspiring offering that will appeal to fans of history, science, and feminism.-Hope Baugh, Carmel Clay Public Library, Carmel, IN © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
January 1958: Launch Dayp. 3
Part I 1940s
Chapter 1 Up, Up, and Awayp. 7
Chapter 2 Headed Westp. 37
Part II 1950s
Chapter 3 Rockets Risingp. 55
Chapter 4 Miss Guided Missilep. 78
Chapter 5 Holding Backp. 102
Chapter 6 Ninety Days and Ninety Minutesp. 123
Chapter 7 Moonglowp. 142
Part III 1960s
Chapter 8 Analog Overlords
Chapter 9 Planetary Pull
Chapter 10 The Last Queen of Outer Space
Part IV 1970s-Today
Chapter 11 Men Are from Marsp. 231
Chapter 12 Look Like a Girlp. 253
Epiloguep. 285
Acknowledgmentsp. 289
Notesp. 293
Indexp. 325

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