Katherine Johnson

April 4, 2021
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“Follow your passion. Whatever you’re doing, do your best at all times and make it as correct as possible.”

At 101, Katherine Johnson, the former NASA mathematician and “human computer” who helped develop human spaceflight in America, died Monday.

  • For her contributions to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
  • She was depicted in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures” about how black women mathematicians impacted the Space Race in the 1960s.

“She was an American hero and her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten.”

NASA Administrator James Bridenstine. Johnson was born in 1918 in West Virginia and became one of the first African-American students to enroll in a graduate program in the state in the 1930s. For decades, professionally and personally she confronted segregation. She returned to work in the 1950s after giving birth to 3 daughters and worked at NASA for more than 30 years.

“Get the girl. If she says they’re good, then I’m ready to go.”

Astronaut John Glenn purportedly said this to NASA engineers who wanted Johnson to personally double check the work of computers that would track his flight as the first American to orbit the earth.

Earlier this month, NASA marked the return of astronaut Christina Koch, who set the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman after spending 328 days on the International Space Station. America prepares to meet the goal of putting a woman on the moon by 2024.

NASA Pioneer Katherine Johnson Q&A

by Jenna Lee,