One week in 2014, a 45-year-old snapshot unexpectedly went viral. Taken in 1969, the black-and-white photograph showed a young bespectacled woman, a wide grin on her face as she gingerly balances a tower of manuals, each one thicker than the last. The subject of the picture, as it turned out, was Margaret Hamilton, the pioneering software engineer who helped land the first men on the moon. The massive stack of printouts comprised the lines of computer code that got them there.
Dean Robbins, a journalist and children’s book writer, stumbled across Hamilton’s photograph in his social-media feed. Instantly charmed by her smile, he was even more captivated by her story.
“We associate the 1960s space program with men, both in orbit and behind the scenes, so it was revelatory to find that a woman had played such an important role,” Robbins said. “As a children’s author, I wondered if Hamilton’s career might be an inspiring story for kids.”