Imagine a story about a stay-at-home mother who, anticipating the departure of her children for college, takes a job at a government agency and by dint of hard work and persistence becomes a world-renowned scientist. This might sound improbable, but it happens to be the true story of Irene K. Fischer, a geodesist and AGU Fellow. How it happened and the way it did is a fascinating and complex story.
In 1952, Fischer started working at the U.S. Army Map Service (AMS) in Brookmont, Md. (now part of Bethesda), at a time when computers were large, expensive, and feeble compared with the cheapest desktop personal computers available today. Much computing was still done on slow and noisy mechanical calculators. Artificial satellites, space probes, global positioning systems, and the like were science fiction fantasies.