Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician portrayed in ‘Hidden Figures’, dies at 101

Pioneering NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies aged 101

Katherine Johnson, legendary NASA mathematician and ‘hidden figure,’ dies at 101

"Her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten", he said. She utilized her talent to provide trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 mission, America's first human spaceflight, in 1961. She more than anyone would have been aware of the others in similar positions who, while they may not have been quite as instrumental or prominent in the moment - John Glenn famously asked before a flight that a mechanical computer's calculations be checked by "the girl", meaning Johnson - were nonetheless indispensable and quite as hidden.

Ms. Johnson and her black colleagues at the fledgling NASA were known as "computers" when that term was used not for a programmed electronic device but for a person who did computations.

The 2016 film of the same name cast Taraji P Henson as Katherine Johnson with Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae portraying her colleagues Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson respectively. "Then I'm ready to go".

Born on 26 August 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, Johnson was an accomplished leader in her field, having been handpicked to be one of three black students to integrate West Virginia's graduate schools and graduated with the highest honours from college in 1937.

President Barack Obama presented Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

Katherine Johnson, a pioneering NASA mathematician, died Monday at the age of 101.

Johnson at her desk at NASA Langley Research Center with a globe, or "Celestial Training Device". "My dad taught us, 'You are as good as anybody in this town, but you're no better.' I don't have a feeling of inferiority". "In her 33 years at NASA, Katherine was a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars", Obama said.

Margot Lee Shetterly wrote the book Hidden Figures and said that Glenn considered Johnson's calculations part of his preflight checklist. Five years later she was a student at the college proper and her prodigious mathematical skills earned the mentorship of Professor W.W. Schieffelin Claytor, who was the third African American to earn a PhD in mathematics. Her trajectory calculations, and backup navigational charts, ensured the project's lunar lander, carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, set down safely on the surface of the Moon.

There, she had the job title "computer" and was tasked with calculating trajectories for early U.S. space missions. In 1959, she married US Army officer James Johnson, and their family grew to include six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. "I will forever be honored to have been apart of bringing your story to life", Henson wrote on Instagram.

NASA shared news of Johnson's death on Monday, tweeting, "We're saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson". NASA has also collected numerous historical accounts and anecdotes at a special memorial page. Your legacy will live on forever and ever.

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