Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson
NASA

Portrait of Katherine Johnson

Katherine G. Johnson was the physicist and mathematician whose calculations were critical to NASA missions sending astronauts into orbit and to the moon and whose story is chronicled in Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures.

In October 1964, Johnson attended a symposium on American Women in Science and Engineering sponsored by the the MIT Association of Women Students. The informational 2-day outreach event for high school girls from 150 schools addressed students’ questions about the field. 

When asked to name her greatest contribution to space exploration, Katherine Johnson talks about the calculations that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module. She also worked on the Space Shuttle and the Earth Resources Satellite, and authored or coauthored 26 research reports. She retired in 1986, after thirty-three years at Langley. “I loved going to work every single day,” she says. In 2015, at age 97, Katherine Johnson added another extraordinary achievement to her long list: President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

NASA

 

READ MORE: NASA Figures at MIT

Timeline: 1950s
Career: MathematicsScienceTechnologyTransportation
Object: Photograph
Collection: Critical Mass 1955-1968, HBCUs, Mentorship, NASA, Potential Output 1946-1954, STEM Education, Women