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Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson

Introduction

About

KATHERINE JOHNSON

THE MATHEMATICIAN BEHIND NASA’S SUCCESS

Born on August 26, 1918, Katherine Johnson was born in West Virginia to an educator and farmer/janitor and would go on to make grand achievements that have helped to make America what it is today. Johnson was incredibly intelligent; her intelligence allowed her to skip grades and attend high school by the age of 10 on the campus of Virginia State College. After finishing at 14 years old, Johnson would then enrol in the college and receive the rest of her education.

During college, Katherine Johnson would develop an interest in becoming a research mathematician, an interest that was recommended to her by her mentor and mathematics professor, Dr. William Claytor. Claytor believed in her so much that he made a class for her called Analytic Geometry of Space. This class would assist her in preparing for a future in space exploration. At just eighteen years old in 1937, Johnson graduated from Virginia State College with the highest distinction, summa cum laude.

Following College, Katherine Johnson went on to become a math teacher, where she would soon meet her husband. The same year that she became married, Johnson accepted an offer to become one of three black students to integrate West Virginia University and pursue the path of graduate studies. After studying for some time, Johnson left school to have a family and would go on to have three daughters.

In 1951, Johnson and her family would move to Newport News, Virginia to start over. Soon after moving, Johnson came across a job opportunity to work as a female mathematician for The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, as the United States was longing to create a national defense aircraft before Russia during the cold war. Johnson sceptically applied for the job and after a year, NACA hired her.

While working at a segregated NACA where black and white female mathematicians were divided, Johnson did not follow the segregation rules related to separated bathrooms and separate eating areas. Instead, she demanded to be allowed to attend high-level briefings and communicated with her white male coworkers at breaks. Johnson became one of the most valuable assets to the administration, working endlessly to ensure that America would be able to orbit Earth and land on the Moon years later. Katherine Johnson was so intelligent that NACA, which would later turn into NASA, had her do the calculations for landing instead of their computers.

Katherine Johnson has accomplished so much in her life; She became the first woman in her division to be rewarded credit as an author of a research report, calculated the path that would allow Alan B. Shepard Jr. to become the first U.S astronaut in space, calculated the path that would allow John Glenn to become the first U.S astronaut to orbit Earth, was part of a team that calculated where to launch the Apollo 11 rocket, which allowed 3 astronauts to go to the Moon.

Johnson would retire from NASA in 1986. Her intelligence would go on to award her an immense amount of honorary degrees, schools and buildings named in her honor, a movie created about her and other female black mathematicians, published books, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to her by now former President Barack Obama.

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Place of Birth: White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, United States

Long: 80.2976° W

Lat: 37.7965° N

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Date of Birth: August 26, 1918

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