As a child, Nicole-Reine Lepaute, (5 January 1723 – 6 December 1788) stayed up all night reading every book in her family library.
Nicole-Reine became a “human computer” who worked with Alexis-Claude Clairaut and Joseph-Jérôme Le Français de Lalande to predict the date of the return of Halley’s Comet. They began calculating in 1757, working every day and sometimes into the night. They divided large calculations into “independent pieces, assembled the results from each piece into a final product” and then checked for errors.
Nicole-Reine Lepaute continued computing for the rest of her life, working for the Connaissance de Temps and publishing predictions of solar eclipses.
Follow in Nicole-Reine’s footsteps and explore comets with NASA’s Tails of Wonder online game. (The game is on NASA’s Spaceplace website and requires Adobe Flash.)