Midpoint Series: Ann Hoang on Annie Easley

This guest post from Ann Hoang is part of the 2012 Midpoint Series. See all of the posts in the series here.

Annie Easley, born April 23, 1933, was an American mathematician, rocket scientist, and one of the first African-American computer scientists. Over the course of her 34-year career she supported the Centaur rocket project and developed and implemented computer systems to analyze alternative power and energy technologies.

Annie Easley

Annie Easley.

Easley might best be known for creating software used to determine the efficiency of energy products, powered by solar, wind and conventional fuels, used and created by NASA. The computer applications she implemented determined if and how the non-renewable energy sources could be converted to renewable, more efficient ones. Her studies in the field of energy included determining the useful life of storage batteries, such as those used in electric utility vehicles.

On the Centaur project, she developed software for space shuttle and satellite launches. Her work contributed to the Cassini probe’s 1997 flight to Saturn, launched by the Centaur.

Easley attended Xavier University and majored in pharmacy for two years before returning to her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama for a brief time in 1954. A year later, she applied for a job as a “computer” for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) after reading a story about twin sisters who worked for NACA.

She was hired within two weeks as a Mathematician and Computer Engineer and became one of four African-Americans of about 2500 employees at NACA. She began her career at the NACA Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory (later to become the NASA Lewis Research Center) in Ohio, where she was assigned to the Flight Software Section.

Committed to continuing her education throughout her carer, she earned a B.S. in Mathematics from Cleveland State University in 1977. Easley retired in 1989.

A 2001 interview with Easley is stored in NASA’s Johnson Space Center Oral History Program. The 55-page transcript includes Easley’s thoughts on the Civil Rights movement, the Glenn Research Center, space flight, and women’s contributions to space flight.

— Ann Hoang

Ann Hoang is currently a Software Engineer at the University of Oregon. She likes developing .NET and mobile apps, open data, agile, social justice + research + tech, entrepreneurship, and kitten hugging puppies. She blogs at STEMinist (Twitter: @STEMinist) and tweets as @annhoang.


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