Hidden Figures Inspiration, Katherine Johnson Dead

Katherine Johnson medal cropped
Former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson is seen after President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls) Johnson's computations have influenced every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle program. Johnson was hired as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA, after they opened hiring to African-Americans and women. Johnson exhibited exceptional technical leadership and is known especially for her calculations of the 1961 trajectory for Alan Shepard’s flight (first American in space), the 1962 verification of the first flight calculation made by an electronic computer for John Glenn’s orbit (first American to orbit the earth), and the 1969 Apollo 11 trajectory to the moon. In her later NASA career, Johnson worked on the Space Shuttle program and the Earth Resources Satellite and encouraged students to pursue careers in science and technology fields.

Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician who inspired the movie Hidden Figures, has passed away at 101 years old!

Katherine Johnson was a pioneer and a true definition of Black Excellence. The former Nasa Mathmetican and Medal of Freedom recipient has passed away at the age of 101!

Johnson, who became more popular within recent years due to the film biopic Hidden Figures, was pivotal to American Space Exploration.  Along with Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, Johnson was one of three black women that helped NASA complete orbital spaceflight.

Born and raised in West Virginia, Katherine Johnson had been making history long before her time with NASA. After graduating from West Virginia State with the highest honors, Johnson was one of the first black students to attend West Virginia University.

After one year at West Virginia, Johnson quit school to start a family. Once her children were of age, the Mathematician return to teaching before shortly joining NASA Predcessor NACA.

Once at NASA, the mother of three excelled at validating calculations usually done by computers. So much, so that Pilot John Glenn is quoted as saying.

” if she says they’re good… then I’m ready to go.”

Because of the work done by Katherine Johnson and others, America was able to take the lead in the space race of the ’60s. Even more, her contributions played a significant role in the perception of women and blacks in STEM fields. Not only did she break down barriers for people of color but women as a whole.

The title of the movie depicting her life is truly fitting. Katherine Johnson was indeed a hidden figure to both American and Black History alike. Furthermore, her life’s work is a reminder that American History is Black History, showing that you can not have the former without the latter.

Rest in Peace to a true queen

What do you guys think of the work Katherine Johnson did at NASA? Could the space program have accomplished everything it has without her?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


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