During her 25-year career with the Army Map Service, Austrian-born geodesist Irene K. Fischer became a pioneer for women in science, technology, electronics and mathematics as a pioneer in geodesy – the science of accurately measuring and understanding earth’s geometric shape, its orientation in space, and its gravity field.
After studying mathematics at the University of Vienna, Fischer married and founded a kindergarten in Vienna. Her quiet life was shattered when Adolf Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. Fleeing Austria with her family, Fischer ended up in Potomac, Md., working for AMS - a NGA heritage organization - and was instrumental in developing what became the World Geodetic System. She was the first AMS employee to receive the Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the highest honor given by the Secretary of Defense to career civilian personnel.