NASA Facility Dedicated to Mathematician Katherine Johnson

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-08-16 00:21Z by Steven

NASA Facility Dedicated to Mathematician Katherine Johnson

Sarah Lewin, Staff Writer

Katherine Johnson, pictured here at NASA’s Langley Research Center, where she worked as a “computer” and mathematician from 1953 to 1986. Langley dedicated a computing facility to Johnson in a ceremony today (May 5).
Credit: NASA

NASA honored 97-year-old mathematician Katherine Johnson today (May 5) by dedicating a building in her name at the space agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Speakers at today’s ceremony included Virginia congressmen and the mayor of Hampton, as well as former astronaut Leland Melvin, who offered Johnson a Space Flight Awareness Silver Snoopy Award that had been flown on the space shuttle Atlantis.

The building’s dedication today was fitting; it occurred on the 55th anniversary of the first American spaceflight by astronaut Alan Shepard, whose suborbital trajectory Johnson calculated during her time working at Langley…

…At Langley, Johnson performed calculations for airplane safety and rocket-launch experiments, starting in 1953 as part of a pool of female “computers” and continuing until 1986. She worked by hand, and then with mechanical calculators — starting at the African-American-only West Area Computers but moving after two weeks to Langley’s flight research division. Eventually, Johnson worked with electronic computers, whose work she checked before the calculations were used in John Glenn’s groundbreaking orbit around the Earth in February 1962..

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The Black Female Mathematicians Who Sent Astronauts to Space

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-11-26 03:19Z by Steven

The Black Female Mathematicians Who Sent Astronauts to Space

Mental Floss

A. K. Whitney

Katherine Johnson at NASA Langley Research Center in 1971. (Source NASA)

Today, November 24, President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom, considered the nation’s highest civilian honor, to 17 men and women. Among them is 97-year-old retired African-American NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, selected for her contributions to the space program, starting with the Mercury missions in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, through the Apollo moon missions in the late ’60s and early ‘70s, and ending with the space shuttle missions in the mid ’80s. Among other things, she calculated the trajectories of America’s first manned mission into orbit and the first Moon landing.

Awarding Johnson this well-deserved honor doesn’t just shine a spotlight on a single black female STEM pioneer. It also illuminates an obscure but important piece of history. Johnson was just one of dozens of mathematically talented black women recruited to work as “human computers” at the Langley Memorial Research Laboratory in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

They were so named because before machines came along, they crunched the numbers necessary for figuring out everything from wind tunnel resistance to rocket trajectories to safe reentry angles.

In fact, all of Langley’s hundreds of “human computers,” whether black or white, were women. It was an era when, as Johnson put it, “the computer wore a skirt.”…

Read the entire article here.

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President Obama Names Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-11-26 01:52Z by Steven

President Obama Names Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Office of the Press Secretary
The White House
Washington, D.C.


WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama named seventeen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The awards will be presented at the White House on November 24th.

President Obama said, “I look forward to presenting these 17 distinguished Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor. From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans.”

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:…

Katherine G. Johnson

Katherine G. Johnson is a pioneer in American space history. A NASA mathematician, Johnson’s computations have influenced every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle program. Johnson was hired as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA, after they opened hiring to African-Americans and women. Johnson exhibited exceptional technical leadership and is known especially for her calculations of the 1961 trajectory for Alan Shepard’s flight (first American in space), the 1962 verification of the first flight calculation made by an electronic computer for John Glenn’s orbit (first American to orbit the earth), and the 1969 Apollo 11 trajectory to the moon. In her later NASA career, Johnson worked on the Space Shuttle program and the Earth Resources Satellite and encouraged students to pursue careers in science and technology fields…

Image of Katherine Johnson at NASA Langley Research Center in 1980. (Source: NASA)

Read the entire press release here.

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