Katherine Johnson, Black NASA Mathematician, Dies At 101

Rodiano Bonacci
Марта 29, 2020

Born in 1918, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, her extreme curiosity and excellence with numbers, boosted her ahead several grades in school. If I encountered something I didn't understand, I'd just ask.

Later in life, she became one of most known and celebrated Black female "computers" hired by NASA and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

She retired after 33 years from NASA in 1986. At 18, she enrolled herself in the college itself, where then she found a mentor with the school's math professor W. W. Schieffelin Claytor, which was the third African American in history to earn a PhD in mathematics.

But Johnson's consignment did little to hold her back.

Johnson was honored with a doctorate by West Virginia University after 75 years of her dropping out of the school. "My dad taught us, 'You are as good as anybody in this town, but you're no better.' I don't have a feeling of inferiority".

Striking out during "a time when computers wore skirts", she once said, Johnson quickly proved her incomparable worth. In 1962, John Glenn was the astronaut who orbited the Earth for the very first time.

"I'm so grateful that she got her flowers when she was alive, even though it took a lifetime".

During the space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union, Ms Johnson and her African-American colleagues worked in separate facilities to white workers, and used different toilets and dining areas. She soon chose to try and make a career of being a research mathematician, which was a lofty goal for an African American woman to achieve at the time. "That really speaks to her competence and her resilience". She was bestowed with numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

The film was nominated for three Oscars.

Johnson notably tried to forget about this physical segregation, saying she "didn't feel the segregation at NASA, because everybody there was doing research".

Commenting on the commemoration, Johnson laughed. "I think they're insane", she told NASA in a pre-taped interview.

Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also paid tribute to Ms Johnson on Twitter.

Johnson then worked for the next 5 years essentially as a human-computer, checking calculations from digital computers. Shetterly's father was among the early generation of black NASA engineers and scientists, and she had direct access to NASA executives and the women featured in the book.

But perhaps Johnson's greatest legacy remains well within the bounds of Earth's atmosphere. "Her calculations helped put Americans in space, in orbit, and, finally, on the Moon", she wrote. Johnson had played an important role in getting the astronaut off the ground. "And we have to grab it".

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