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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Just Started Reading...Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Well, the full title is Hidden Figures: The Untold Story Of The African American Women Who Helped Win The Space Race. And these women were mathematicians, the lot of them, university educated and ready to do the figuring needed to help get the Mercury 7 and later astronauts safely into space and back. They were in a building labelłed West Computing Group at Virginia's Langley Base and their job title was "computer." Human computers. 

Just imagine spending your whole day doing mathematics - and seeing the resułt of your calculations zoom up into orbit. Me, I admit to having failed maths at high school and never doing it again after Year 10. I have managed fine without it, apart from what I needed to do my shopping and spend my work budget carefully. But this makes me think there is a beauty I will never be able to appreciate in the mathematical formula, just as inspiring as the beauty of music or art or literature. 

I actually went to see the film last Thursday night, when it opened in Melbourne, with a space-loving friend, Geoff, and have already decided I'm buying it on DVD as soon as it becomes available. There's nothing more exciting than an inspiring film about the early days of space travel. The world was such a different place at that time. Computers - the machine kind - filled rooms and had less power than the average modern smartphone or calculator. You wrote by hand or typewriter - likely a manual typewriter. If you needed a phone you had to go to the room or hallway where it was located, or find coins for a public phone.  

It was a world for humans. 

And the humans in this story, of which I'd never heard till recently, were amazing people. 

The film was about brilliant women, brilliant African American women, making a difference in the early space age - what's not to like? If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend it highly. 

The honourable, decent boss was played by Kevin Costner, whom I last saw, much younger, as Robin Hood. And an unpleasant engineer who resented Our Heroine, whose maths was probably better than his, was played by the guy whom I last saw as Sheldon the physics nerd in The Big Bang Theory

Lately I've been bingeing on books about the space program, so I bought this one in ebook only yesterday, and I think I'm going to thoroughly enjoy it! 

Anyone out there read it? 


miki said...

i heard about teh film and i do want to see if only to honour those women forgotten for too long. i didn't know there was a book about it willneed to see if i can find it

Sue Bursztynski said...

The film was based on the (non-fiction)book. A wonderful movie it is too! Inspiring. I got the book on iBooks. These days I prefer ebooks, which I can download immediately and don't take up space on my shelves. ;-)