September 28, 2023

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dead at 101

By: Isaiah Robinson

Katherine Johnson, one of a group of black women mathematicians at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) who was celebrated in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures,” died Feb. 24. She was 101 years old.

Johnson is recognized as a pathbreaker for women and African Americans in the field of spaceflight. The mathematical genius was relied upon to check the work of her superiors — engineers who, at the time, were white and male. Because of her expertise, Johnson was nicknamed “computer.”

Her calculations helped to plot the flight of Alan B. Shepard Jr., who became the first American in space when his Mercury spacecraft went aloft in 1961.

Johnson developed equations that helped NASA send astronauts into orbit and, later, to the moon. She was overshadowed by the astronauts whose flights she calculated and the department heads under whom she served.

The human computer finally gained the recognition she so rightfully deserved in 2015 when President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the country’s highest civilian honor. Her research was celebrated in the best-selling book, “Hidden Figures,” by Margot Lee Shetterly and the Oscar-nominated film starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe in 2016.

Rest easy Black Queen, your work will never be forgotten. – AANI



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