Katherine Johnson (1918-2020)

This American mathematician gained well deserved notoriety through the film Hidden Figures. Born in West Virginia, Katherine had a fascination and curiosity with numbers. She attended college classes while in high school graduating from the State College of West Virginia in 1937 at 19 years of age with a Bachelors Degree in Math and French.

Upon graduation she taught school in Virginia. In 1939, she was offered and accepted a Masters Program to integrate West Virginia colleges, but left after the first semester to start a family. When her 3 daughters became older she returned to teaching.

Learning from a relative of positions in Virginia in the Langley computing area she moved her family to the area and obtained a temporary position. Her position quickly became permanent when her skills were recognized.

In 2015 Katherine G. Johnson receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama

She worked in a myriad of situations and settings but perhaps her 1962 calculations of John Glenn’s space flight catapulted her career. Famously he requested, “Go get the girl,” when calculations were needed for his re-entry into Earth. Later she was credited in a scientific paper regarding the flight. This was the first time a female received credit in a scientific paper of this nature.

Katherine continued working for NASA for 33 years authoring and co-authoring over 26 research reports. In 2016, a new building on the NASA Hampton, Virginia campus was opened and named in her honor, The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.

Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Reid Conference Center. Honored guests include Katherine G. Johnson and members of her family, Mayor Donnie Tuck, Senator Warner and Governor McAuliffe. Margot Lee Shetterly, author of “Hidden Figures,”

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