Hidden Figures is a Black, not white, Women’s Story

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-06-30 03:02Z by Steven

Hidden Figures is a Black, not white, Women’s Story

Medium
2017-11-22

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden presents an award to Katherine Johnson, the African American mathematician, physicist, and space scientist, who calculated flight trajectories for John Glenn’s first orbital flight in 1962, at a reception to honor members of the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, VA. Afterward, the guests attended a premiere of “Hidden Figures” a film which stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson. (image: a brown skinned man in a suit handing a plaque to a brown skinned woman in a wheelchair with a brown skinned woman standing behind the wheelchair.)
NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

It’s important to know the difference between “marginalized” and “hidden”

These remarks were made in my role as respondent to a paper on the (white) women students of (white woman) astronomer Maria Mitchell at the 2017 Society of History of Technology meeting. They were well received by the person whose work I was commentating on.

I will respond by offering a history of my own knowledge of women in astronomy. My interest in the Hidden Figures has been strongly shaped by my own experiences as a Black woman working at the intersection of physics and astrophysics. As an undergraduate at Harvard in the early 2000s, I was aware of the white women who had acted as computers for the Harvard College Observatory — this was history that astronomy undergraduates were privy to and that someone (I don’t remember who) took some effort to ensure that at the least women undergraduates learned about. The idea that their history or role was hidden, for this reason, has always seemed jarring to me. They were not hidden to us even as we recognized that more broadly they were a site of disinterest for many, but it was always made clear to me as an undergraduate that while their opportunities were limited, white women astronomers had been part of early American astronomy and that they had played a significant role in my own sub field, cosmology. (As in, without Harvard Computer Henrietta Leavitt’s discovery of the cepheid variable luminosity relation, Hubble could not have discovered the expansion of the universe. Of course, I didn’t learn until much later that Leavitt was a deaf adult, and it is interesting what parts of her story were left out.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Virginia Officials, Hidden Figures Author Join NASA in Honoring Legacy of Famed Mathematician; Live on NASA Television

Posted in Articles, Live Events, Media Archive, United States, Virginia, Women on 2017-09-22 15:48Z by Steven

Virginia Officials, Hidden Figures Author Join NASA in Honoring Legacy of Famed Mathematician; Live on NASA Television

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA Langley
Media Advisory M17-105

Karen Northon
Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
202-358-1540

Mike Finneran
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
757-864-6110

2017-09-07


The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Credits: NASA

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and author Margot Lee Shetterly are among the dignitaries honoring Katherine Johnson, former NASA employee and central character of the book and movie Hidden Figures, at 1 p.m. [EDT] Sept. 22 at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

They will join Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck and Langley Center Director David Bowles in cutting the ribbon to officially open the center’s new Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, a state-of-the-art lab for innovative research and development supporting NASA’s exploration missions.

The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Media wishing to attend must contact Michael Finneran of the Langley communications office at 757-864-6110 or michael.p.finneran@nasa.gov.

Johnson, 99, will attend and participate in photo opportunities, but will not be available for interviews. A prerecorded message from her will be aired during the ceremony and a statement will be read.

Johnson was a “human computer” at Langley who calculated trajectories for America’s first spaceflights in the 1960s. The retired mathematician was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2015. Her contributions and those of other NASA African-American human computers are chronicled in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures, based on Lee-Shetterly’s book of the same name. She worked at Langley from 1953 until she retired in 1986.

For more about Johnson, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/content/katherine-johnson-biography

The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility (CRF) is a $23-million, 37,000-square-foot, energy efficient structure that consolidates five Langley data centers and more than 30 server rooms. The facility will enhance NASA’s efforts in modeling and simulation, big data, and analysis. Much of the work now done by wind tunnels eventually will be performed by computers like those at the CRF.

For more information about Langley Research Center, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/langley

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Katherine Johnson is not the first black woman to accomplish some of the things she did but the first woman, period.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-03-13 01:52Z by Steven

“I’ve seen some of the interviews NASA has done with its modern figures’—women of color at NASA who are scientists, mathematicians and engineers, and they make me really happy,” [Heather] Graham says, “because I want the message to get out that Katherine Johnson’s achievements aren’t history but rather the beginning of a movement of women in space science! Katherine Johnson is not the first black woman to accomplish some of the things she did but the first woman, period. She’s such an all purpose hero!”

Linda Billings, “Before “Hidden Figures,” There Was a Rock Opera About NASA’s Human Computers,” Air & Space Magazine, February 3, 2017. http://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/hidden-figures-there-was-rock-opera-about-nasas-human-computers-180961980/.

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Before “Hidden Figures,” There Was a Rock Opera About NASA’s Human Computers

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-03-13 01:30Z by Steven

Before “Hidden Figures,” There Was a Rock Opera About NASA’s Human Computers

Air & Space Magazine
2017-02-03

Linda Billings, Senior Editor

Katherine Johnson’s inspirational story came to the Baltimore stage in 2015, thanks to another space scientist.

Hidden Figures,” the story of three African-American women whose mathematical skill helped NASA launch astronauts into space and back in the early 1960s, has been both a critical and box office success. With more than $100 million in ticket sales and a stack of award nominations, the movie has inspired audiences with a true story made even more powerful by virtue of the fact that it was largely untold for 50 years. And still mostly unknown is the story of another NASA scientist who beat Hollywood to the punch by putting “human computer” Katherine Johnson’s saga on stage almost two years ago.

Heather Graham is an astrobiologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center outside Washington, D.C. She’s also a gamer, a feminist, and a member of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society. In May 2015, the society staged Graham’s one-act rock opera, “Determination of Azimuth,” which portrays how Johnson and her colleagues Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, were ignored and demeaned on the job at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, because they were black and female. The story has a happy ending: Their work was validated, their expertise accepted. But they had to endure racism and sexism along the way…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Hidden’ no more: Katherine Johnson, a black NASA pioneer, finds acclaim at 98

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-02-03 15:02Z by Steven

‘Hidden’ no more: Katherine Johnson, a black NASA pioneer, finds acclaim at 98

The Washington Post
2017-01-27

Victoria St. Martin

Fame has finally found Katherine Johnson — and it only took a half-century, six manned moon landings, a best-selling book and an Oscar-nominated movie.

For more than 30 years, Johnson worked as a NASA mathematician at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., where she played an unseen but pivotal role in the country’s space missions. That she was an African American woman in an almost all-male and white workforce made her career even more remarkable.

Now, three decades after retiring from the agency, Johnson is portrayed by actress Taraji P. Henson in “Hidden Figures,” a film based on a book of the same name. The movie tells how a group of black women — world-class mathematicians all — helped provide NASA with data crucial to the success of the agency’s early spaceflights. “Hidden Figures” was nominated Tuesday for an Academy Award for best picture.

Suddenly Johnson, who will turn 99 in August, finds herself inundated with interview requests, award banquet invitations and people who just want to stop by and shake her hand.

“I’m glad that I’m young enough still to be living and that they are, so they can look and see, ‘That’s who that is,’ ” she said. “And they are as excited as I am.”

For many people, especially African Americans, her tale of overcoming racism and sexism is inspirational…

Read the entire article here.

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A Black Female Astrophysicist Explains Why Hidden Figures Isn’t Just About History

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-01-19 01:09Z by Steven

A Black Female Astrophysicist Explains Why Hidden Figures Isn’t Just About History

Gizmodo
2017-01-17

Rae Paoletta


Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson in Hidden FiguresImage: 20th Century Fox/YouTube

First, it beat Star Wars: Rogue One. Now, for the second weekend since its wide-release debut, Hidden Figures—the true story of three black female mathematicians at NASA—is number one at the box office. It’s raked in roughly $6o million so far, and counting.

The inspiring story of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan has reenergized the ongoing conversation about the importance of inclusivity in STEM. Though we’ve long done away with the Jim Crow laws depicted in Hidden Figures, black women in are still notoriously underrepresented in mathematical sciences, including physics. A quick look at the numbers proves it: between 1973 and 2012, 22,172 white men received PhDs in physics. Only 66 black women did.

Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein was one of those women.


Chanda Prescod-Weinstein Image Credit: GR21 LOC

In 2010, Prescod-Weinstein became the 63rd black American woman to ever earn a PhD in physics, from the Perimeter Institute at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Now, as a theoretical astrophysicist who’s worked at MIT and, more recently, the University of Washington, she is an advocate for black women and non-binary people in STEM…

Read the entire interview here.

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98-Year-Old NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson: ‘If You Like What You’re Doing, You Will Do Well’

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Videos, Women on 2017-01-19 00:39Z by Steven

98-Year-Old NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson: ‘If You Like What You’re Doing, You Will Do Well’

People
2016-11-04

Caitlin Keating

Katherine Johnson thinks all of her accomplishments over the 98 years she’s been alive are “ordinary.”

But to the rest of the world, they’re anything but.

Johnson, a physicist, space scientist and mathematician graduated from high school at 14-years-old, attended college the very next year and was the first African-American woman to desegregate the graduate school at West Virginia University…

…In 1953, after years of being a teacher, she began working for NASA where she was nicknamed the “human computer.”

Johnson was able to calculate the trajectory for numerous space missions, including for the space flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space and the trajectory for the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon…

Read the entire interview here.

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Katherine Johnson, Va. woman at center of ‘Hidden Figures,’ calls calculation ‘piece of cake’

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Virginia, Women on 2017-01-16 02:20Z by Steven

Katherine Johnson, Va. woman at center of ‘Hidden Figures,’ calls calculation ‘piece of cake’

CBS 6, WTVR-TV
Richmond Virginia
2017-01-13

HAMPTON, Va. — It is the untold story that has been hidden in Hampton for decades.

The box office hit “Hidden Figures” highlights the black female mathematicians at NASA who’s brain power helped launch the first Americans into space.

“It feels good,” said 98-year-old former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.

Johnson, portrayed in the film by Taraji P. Henson, calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space.  Johnson also confirmed, by hand, the launch calculations for John Glenn, the first American to circle the globe in 1962…

Read the entire article and watch the story here.

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The unbelievable life of the forgotten genius who turned Americans’ space dreams into reality

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-01-10 01:10Z by Steven

The unbelievable life of the forgotten genius who turned Americans’ space dreams into reality

Business Insider
2016-08-22

Meghan Bartels

There’s no protocol for women attending,” says a white man in a suit holding a sheaf of papers.

“There’s no protocol for a man circling the Earth either, sir,” Taraji P. Henson retorts in my favorite line from the new trailer for the movie “Hidden Figures,” due theaters this January.

Henson plays Katherine Johnson, a brilliant mathematician at NASA working on the space program in its earliest days, beginning in the 1950s. Many of NASA’s first missions were made possible by Johnson’s intrepid, unparalleled calculations.

The movie is based on a nonfiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, who grew up near NASA’s Langley Research Center, where Johnson and her colleagues worked.

Johnson still lives near Langley in Hampton, Virginia, where she’ll be celebrating her 98th birthday later this month. Keep scrolling to learn the true story of her incredible life…

Read the entire article here.

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Who Is Katherine Johnson?

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-01-08 20:17Z by Steven

Who Is Katherine Johnson?

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
2016-12-30

Heather S. Deiss
NASA Educational Technology Services

Denise Miller
NASA Educational Technology Services


Katherine Johnson
Credits: Katherine Johnson

This article is part of the NASA Knows! (Grades 5-8) series.

Katherine Johnson is an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA from 1953 until 1986. She was a human computer. In a time when minorities held very few jobs in mathematics and science, Johnson was a trailblazer. Her work in calculating the paths for spaceships to travel was monumental in helping NASA successfully put an American in orbit around Earth. Then her work helped to land astronauts on the moon.

What Was Katherine Johnson’s Early Life Like?

Katherine Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. As a very young girl, she loved to count things. She counted everything, from the number of steps she took to get to the road to the number of forks and plates she washed when doing the dishes.

Johnson was born with a love for mathematics. At a young age, she was very eager to go to school. Now in her 90s, Johnson can vividly remember watching her older siblings go to school, wishing so much that she could go with them. When Johnson finally did start school, she so excelled that by age 10, she was in high school. By age 15, she’d started college!…

Read the entire article here.

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