Hidden Figures – A Really Cool Movie

By Greg Turnquist

Greg L. Turnquist worked on the Spring team for over thirteen years and is a senior staff technical content engineer at Cockroach Labs. He was the lead for Spring Data JPA and Spring Web Services. He wrote Packt's best-selling title, Learning Spring Boot 2.0 2nd Edition, and its 3rd Edition follow-up along many others.

May 26, 2017

Last night, I watched Hidden Figures with my wife and a friend. The story had me pinned to my seat the entire time.

This is set back in the days of the Mercury space program. Back then, before the days of digital computers, there were human computers to tally up columns of figures. And in those days, such brutal work was menial and deemed secretarial. To put it in a sentence, engineers and scientists decided what formulas to use and this pool of women would be tasked to carry it out.

In the movie, one of these human computers, Katherine Goble, an African-American woman that graduated college (at the age of 14 in mathematics!), gets picked to crunch the numbers for the team calculating launch and landing windows for astronauts.

What quickly escalates is the fact that she not only can she do the math, she can spot what formulas to use, and find the solution. She can do the job of both a human computer AND the engineer that would be giving out the task assignments.

That’s not all that escalates. Back in the 1960s, circumstances for minorities was horrendous. And this movie doesn’t gloss over the challenges she and her friends face during the height of the Civil Rights Movement while engaged in the great Space Race.

Bottom line: it’s a great movie that weaves an entertaining story that really happened. The dram is top notch. And it’s not preachy. Instead, it makes you appreciate all that was accomplished while rooting for the home team.


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