Margaret Hamilton, the UPC’s next honorary doctor


Margaret Hamilton, photo by Daphne Weld Nichols (1995)

The UPC will award an honorary doctorate to the American Margaret Hamilton, a pioneer in the use of the term “software engineering” during NASA’s first Apollo missions 50 years ago. The proposal, approved by the UPC’s Governing Council, was made by the Barcelona School of Informatics (FIB) and is part of the celebration of the School’s 40th anniversary.

Jul 27, 2018

Margaret Hamilton (Indiana, United States) is a computational scientist, a mathematician and a systems engineer. She was director of the Software Engineering Division of the Instrumentation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she led the development of on-board navigation software for the Apollo Space Programme. Thanks to the design principles that she applied, it was possible to solve the problems in the navigational computer that the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission encountered when they landed on the moon.

Hamilton was also a founder and executive director of Hamilton Technologies, Inc. (1986) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the company that developed the Universal Systems Language for software design systems and the mathematical theory on which it is based, “Development Before the Fact”. On 22 November 2016, Hamilton received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US president Barack Obama for the development of the Apollo missions software.

The UPC award aims to recognise a pioneer in the use of the term “software engineering” during the first Apollo missions 50 years ago. Hamilton gave prestige to software development, placing it at the same level of importance as software design and hardware engineering. The concepts, models and techniques that she developed were the basis for the design of highly reliable software. Hamilton’s contributions have been key in the fields of computer science and aeronautics.

The award is also a tribute to a woman who worked in a totally male environment and promoted the presence of women in the field of computer science. Her honorary doctorate was proposed by the FIB and is supported by the Castelldefels School of Telecommunications and Aerospace Engineering (EETAC), the Terrassa School of Industrial, Aerospace and Audiovisual Engineering (ESEIAAT), the UPC's Department of Service and Information System Engineering and the Department of Computer Science of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich.