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History > USA > Civil rights


Breaking the color barrier > Science


Katherine Johnson   1918-2020





Katherine Johnson,

part of a small group

of African-American women mathematicians

who did crucial work at NASA, in 1966.



NASA/Donaldson Collection, via Getty Images


Katherine Johnson Dies at 101;

Mathematician Broke Barriers at NASA

She was one of a group

of black women mathematicians at NASA

and its predecessor who were celebrated

in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures.”

The New York Times

Feb. 24, 2020    Updated 10:48 a.m. ET






























































Hidden Figures

Official Trailer    20th Century FOX    2016





Hidden Figures

Video    Official Trailer [HD]    20th Century FOX    2016


HIDDEN FIGURES is the incredible untold story

of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson),

Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer)

and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)

—brilliant African-American women working at NASA,

who served as the brains

behind one of the greatest operations in history:


the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit,

a stunning achievement

that restored the nation’s confidence,

turned around the Space Race,

and galvanized the world.


The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines

to inspire generations to dream big.


Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer,

Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst,

Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge,

Glen Powell & Kimberly Quinn



















Katherine Johnson   1918-2020


born Creola Katherine Coleman


Wielding little more

than a pencil, a slide rule

and one of the finest

mathematical minds

in the country,

Mrs. Johnson



the precise trajectories

that would let Apollo 11 land

on the moon in 1969 and,

after Neil Armstrong’s

history-making moonwalk,

let it return to Earth.


A single error,

she well knew,

could have dire consequences

for craft and crew.


Her impeccable calculations

had already helped plot

the successful flight

of Alan B. Shepard Jr.,

who became

the first American in space

when his Mercury spacecraft

went aloft in 1961.


The next year,

she likewise helped

make it possible for John Glenn,

in the Mercury vessel Friendship 7,

to become the first American

to orbit the Earth.


Yet throughout

Mrs. Johnson’s

33 years in NASA’s

Flight Research Division

— the office from which

the American space

program sprang —

and for decades afterward,

almost no one knew her name.


Mrs. Johnson

was one of several hundred

rigorously educated,

supremely capable

yet largely unheralded women who,

well before the modern

feminist movement,

worked as NASA mathematicians.

But it was not only her sex

that kept her long marginalized

and long unsung:


Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson,

a West Virginia native who began

her scientific career

in the age of Jim Crow,

was also African-American.


In old age, Mrs. Johnson

became the most celebrated

of the small cadre of black women

— perhaps three dozen —

who at midcentury served

as mathematicians

for the space agency

and its predecessor,

the National Advisory

Committee for Aeronautics.


Their story was told

in the 2016 Hollywood film

“Hidden Figures,” based on

Margot Lee Shetterly’s

nonfiction book of the same title,

published that year.


The movie starred

Taraji P. Henson as Mrs. Johnson,

the film’s central figure.

It also starred Octavia Spencer

and Janelle Monáe

as her real-life colleagues

Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.






















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