While I was procrastinating the other day, I came across a documentary entitled Top Secret Rosies: Female computers of WW2. Now, I am competent enough to know that “computers” referred to people. During World War II it was largely women who took over most of the industrial jobs in the nation, so I thought this documentary was worth watching.
Without taking away too much of the fun, the documentary follows the stories of women who had degrees in mathematics during WW2 and worked as calculators to work on ballistics (projectile paths, etc). They would work on computations at least 12 hours a day, calculating by hand problems both complicated and tedious by today’s standards. Interestingly enough, the women were largely unaware of their part in the war effort, and once they were they were not allowed to talk about it for over 60 years.
Another fascinating component of this was the evolution of electronic computing during this time. In fact, the documentary asserts that the women who worked for this effort were the pioneer programmers as well.
I highly recommend watching this if you are interested in (math/American) history. That’s Top Secret Rosies: Female computers of WW2.