Female Pioneers – Katherine Johnson
"They asked Katherine Johnson for the moon, and she gave it to them."
We've previously written about Mary W. Jackson - NASA's first African American female engineer. Together with her female colleagues, she ensured that the United States won the space race in the 1960s. One of these colleagues was Katherine Johnson.
Katherine Johnson loved math and did calculations on everything - all the time. She studied mathematics and geometry at the university, and after her graduation, she started working as a teacher. In 1953, she got a job at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NACA (today known as NASA). When Katherine started working for NASA, black and white people weren't allowed to work together, so she and her colleagues worked in a special department called "West Area Computing".
One of the things Katherine worked on was to figure out how to use geometry for space travel. Her calculations were used to find out which way the spacecraft should travel to be able to take people back and forth from the moon. Without her work, there might never have been a moon landing.
During her career, she worked as a computer scientist, physicist, teacher, aeronautical engineer and mathematician. When she retired in 1986, she had worked for NASA for 33 years. Two of NASA's buildings have been named after her, and she has been awarded several awards for her incredible work.
Have you seen the movie "Hidden Figures" about Katherine Johnson and her colleagues' fantastic work for NASA? It was nominated for a "Best Picture" Oscar.
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