Mathematician Katherine Johnson at Work

Mathematician Katherine Johnson at Work

NASA History
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sarah Loff, Editor

Image Credit: NASA

NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson is photographed at her desk at Langley Research Center in 1966. Johnson began her career in 1953 at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA, one of a number of African-American women hired to work as “computers” in what was then their Guidance and Navigation Department, just as the NACA was beginning its work on space. Johnson became known for her training in geometry, her leadership, and her inquisitive nature; she was the only woman at the time to be pulled from the computing pool to work with engineers on other programs.

Johnson worked at Langley from 1953 until her retirement in 1986, making critical technical contributions which included calculating the trajectory of the 1961 flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space…

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