Stanford Engineering Heroes include astronaut Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa
Ellen Ochoa (Photograph courtesy NASA)

The first Latina in space, a female pioneer of computer science and a legend of aerodynamics who later pivoted to become an authority in the history of technology are this year’s Stanford Engineering Heroes.

The Engineering Heroes program, which inducts its eighth class in 2019, was established in 2010 to recognize the profound contributions of distinguished alumni and emeritus faculty of Stanford School of Engineering. Past winners include Nobel Prize winners, inventors, writers, teachers and entrepreneurs who have shaped the world as we know it.

Engineering Heroes are considered and chosen by a panel of technology experts, faculty, alumni, students and historians who are charged with evaluating each nominee’s impact and selecting those whose works and ideas set them apart.

This year’s Stanford Engineering Heroes are:

Barbara Liskov: Liskov earned her doctorate in computer science at Stanford in 1972, one of the first women ever to earn a PhD in the field. She soon became a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where over her distinguished and still-active career her seminal work would be recognized with the John von Neumann Medal from the IEEE, the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery and a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Women Engineers. Liskov is perhaps best known for inventing the concept of data abstraction, which became the foundation of the way software systems are organized today. In 2003, she was named one of the 50 most important women in science by Discover Magazine.

Ellen Ochoa: Ochoa earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering at Stanford and soon joined NASA as a research engineer in 1988. In 1990, she was selected as an astronaut and became the first Latina in space, flying aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. She would go on to log almost 1,000 hours on four separate trips to space. Ochoa then became the 11th director of the Johnson Space Center, the second woman director in the center’s history and the first Latina to hold the role. Ochoa received the Distinguished Service Medal, NASA’s highest award, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award. She has no fewer than six schools named for her, including an elementary school, a public charter middle school and a prep academy.

WALTER VINCENTI: Vincenti, who will soon celebrate his 102nd birthday, earned his engineer’s degree at Stanford in 1940 and cut his aeronautical teeth at the famed Ames Laboratory at Moffett Field at the onset of World War II. He built a small wind tunnel and unified the existing theories into a single mathematical model predicting air flow over wings nearing the sound barrier. In 1957, he was offered a full professorship at Stanford and charged with revitalizing the aeronautics program. Later, Vincenti pivoted his career toward scholarly pursuit of the history of technology, a field in which he excelled equally. In 2016, Vincenti received the Guggenheim Medal, the premier recognition for lifetime achievement in aeronautics.

Liskov, Ochoa and Vincenti now join the 39 Engineering Heroes already inducted. Many of those Heroes are household names, including internet pioneer Vint Cerf, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J.  Perry, astronaut Sally Ride, Hewlett-Packard founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, and Yahoo! founders Jerry Yang and David Filo.

Learn more about Stanford Engineering Heroes.