The Hidden Heroines of Chaos

Joshua Sokol | Quanta Magazine
Monday, May 20, 2019

Two women programmers played a pivotal role in the birth of chaos theory. Their previously untold story illustrates the changing status of computation in science.

Read the full story in Quanta Magazine

The story of how MIT meteorologist Edward N. Lorenz discovered and developed chaos theory has been well-circulated, but as EAPS Professor of Geophysics Dan Rothman uncovered and shared with science journalist Joshua Sokol for Quanta Magazine, it left out the contributions of two key women programmers, who made this work possible: Ellen Fetter and Margaret Hamilton. This account "provides a fuller, fairer account of the birth of chaos."

Story Image: Ellen Fetter and Margaret Hamilton were responsible for programming the enormous 1960s-era computer that would uncover strange attractors and other hallmarks of chaos theory. (Credit: Olena Shmahalo/Quanta Magazine)