Twenty-one civilians received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from outgoing US President Barack Obama. Among the 21 recipients are five people who made their mark in the field of science and technology.
Grace Hopper (posthumous)
The late Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was instrumental in developing fundamental computing systems. The "first lady of software" was involved with some of the earliest computers ever made including Mark I and the UNIVAC. Hopper, who passed away in 1992, is responsible for the first working compiler, the first modern programming language called the COBOL, and for popularizing the term "debugging". Amazing Grace also helped in modernizing the Navy.
Hamilton is a brilliant computer scientist and engineer who created the software that proved instrumental during one critical moment as the Apollo 11 attempted to land on the moon. When the Lunar lander was a mere three minutes away from the surface of the moon, the software detected that the computer was being overloaded with tasks. As the alarms blared, the software allowed the computer to prioritize the more important tasks including the landing procedure.
Bill and Melinda Gates
The power couple made it to the list mostly because of their philanthropic acts but it doesn't hurt that Bill is one of the most influential people in the tech industry and has used that power to make the lives of others better through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Some of Garwin's contributions include MRI, laser printing, computer systems, low-temperature and nuclear physics, gravitational radiation detection, U.S. defense and intelligence technologies, and the first successful hydrogen bomb. The polymath physicist also holds 47 patents and has been adviser to numerous U.S. presidents.
The other recipients of the award were:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - retired professional basketball player and social justice advocate
Elouise Cobell (posthumous) - late leader of the Blackfeet Tribal community and advocate for Native American rights
Ellen DeGeneres - popular talk show host an actress who advocated equality
Robert De Niro - legendary award-winning actor and Kennedy Center honouree
Frank Gehry - renowned architect responsible for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, Guggenheim Museum building in Bilbao, Spain, and the Dancing House in Prague.
Tom Hanks - award-winning actor considered one of the best ever also advocates for social and environmental justice and for the welfare of veterans and their families
Michael Jordan - arguably the greatest of all time, the basketball legend and current Charlotte Hornets owner inspired many to take up basketball and "be like Mike"
Maya Lin - brilliant artist, designer (designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.) and environmentalist
Lorne Michaels - producer and screenwriter who has produced Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Staring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and 30 Rock.
Newt Minow - lawyer, World War II veteran, and FCC chairman during the Kennedy administration
Eduardo Padron - Miami Dade College president advocating equality in education and championed innovative teaching
Robert Redford - award-winning actor and director, founder of the Sundance Film Festival, and environmentalist
Diana Ross - well-known singer and occasional actor, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, and Kennedy Center Honoree
Vin Scully - member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a broadcaster whose voice iss known as the "soudtrack of summer"
Bruce Springsteen - singer, songwriter and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who has inspired countless people with his songs
Cicely Tyson - revered stage actress who have also worked on television and film; also received Kennedy Center Honors