Mother of the Hubble Telescope
1st NASA Woman Executive
Nancy Grace Roman (1925 – Present)
Nancy Grace Roman is an astronomer and was the first women executive at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Roman is known as the “Mother of Hubble” for her contributions to establishing the Hubble Space Telescope. Throughout her career Roman has been an outspoken advocate for women in the sciences.
Roman showed interest and talent in the sciences from an early age, but like many women of her time she was discouraged by teachers at all levels who thought women were not suited to study science. Roman persevered, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in astronomy from Swarthmore College in 1946, and completing a PhD in astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1949. Roman stayed at the University for six years working as a researcher and instructor, but left due to the limited opportunities for women.
Dr. Roman worked at the Naval Research Laboratory before being hired by newly-formed NASA in1959 to create the organization’s space astronomy program. Roman worked at NASA for 21 years and then rorked as a consultant for companies that contracted with NASA. She fully retired in 1997, and began extensive volunteer work including conducting science programs in underserved Washington, D.C. schools.
Nancy Grace Roman’s career was groundbreaking not only as a woman scientist, but also in her research discoveries and the programs she created. She discovered the first clues to the evolution of the Milky Way galaxy, mapped the sky at 67 centimeters, and helped improve the accuracy of measurements to the distance of the moon. At NASA Roman led a program that launched more than 20 satellites and three orbiting solar observatories. Roman laid the early groundwork for the Hubble Space Telescope, setting the program’s structure, recruiting astronomers, and lobbying Congress to fund it. Roman’s many awards and honors include The Federal Woman’s Award (1962), NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award (1969), and the NASA fellowship in astrophysics is named in her honor.
Did You Know…
The Association for Women in Science was founded in 1971 to address job discrimination and lower pay for women scientists. Since then there has been a steady increase in efforts to empower girls and women in the sciences.