Katherine Johnson

By Lily Saunders

Katherine Johnson is a remarkable woman to remember this month. 

Johnson was a mathematician and scientist  at NASA, who worked effortlessly to provide calculations to help send the first U.S. citizens to space. 

Johnson was born on August 26, 1918 in West Virginia, her parents were Joylette Coleman and Joshua Coleman. 

Johnson was a bright student who excelled in school; she attended college at just thirteen years old. To continue her education, Johnson attended West Virginia State University and West Virginia University, where she majored in Mathematics and French. She progressed even further, and later worked to receive her PHD in mathematics.

While she was in college, Johnson was picked as one of three African American students who could integrate into the WV graduate school. This was a major accomplishment at the time for Johnson. 

Before Johnson worked at NASA, she was a teacher at an African American public school in Virginia. Johnson began her career at NASA, when there positions available titled “All Black.”

Members of NASA quickly saw Johnson’s potential and she was invited to work on logistical calculations in order to send NASA’s space shuttles in space. She worked closely with astronaut John Glenn, who communicated with her personally to help calculate the equations and math needed for his orbit into space. Johnson was ultimately very successful and the space ship went into orbit in 1962. Johnson was also a part of making countless other NASA achievements achievable, through her work in math and science. 

Katherine Johnson later retired from NASA in 1986, and in 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by president Barack Obama. This award is the highest award possible for American citizens. 

Johnson unfortunately passed away in early 2020, at 101 years old.

Katherine Johnson broke barriers for women and African Americans that no one was able to do before her. Her legacy will live on at  NASA and history forever.

If you are interested in learning more at Katherine Johnson, her life and work at NASA is portrayed in the hit movie Hidden Figures. The movie is very interesting, informative and highly recommended.

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