Katherine Johnson, Well-Known NASA Mathematician Whose Story Inspired 'Hidden Figures' Dies at the Age of 101
Katherine Johnson, the female African-American mathematician whose calculations played a pivotal role in getting man into space, has passed away.
NASA announced via Twitter, on Monday, that Johnson, aged 101 had passed on. She died at a retirement home in Newport Views, Virginia, on Monday morning.
As NASA's announcement read, Johnson's contributions to the United States space exploration efforts in the mid-19th century were given proper recognition in the 2016 Oscar-nominated film "Hidden Figures."
However, Katherine's work and the significance of what she meant to the fields were much more prominent than what a single film could portray.
As a mathematician, Johnson was part of the "Computer Pool" at NASA, a group of mathematicians who helped provide calculations and plot trajectories for astronauts as they made the first voyages to space.
However, her standout moment came when she took on the seemingly impossible task of helping to launch U.S. astronaut John Glenn into space and orbit around the Earth, in 1962.
Even though the technology of her time was limited and the agency had ignored her work for years, Ms. Johnson was persistent in her brilliance, and she was able to take the lead in guiding the first American into space.
Katherine's diligence and hard work paved the way for young girls to dream big and achieve anything they set their minds to
We're saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://t.co/Tl3tsHAfYB pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW— NASA (@NASA) February 24, 2020
Katherine Johnson's work also extended to assisting Neil Armstrong and the 1969 Apollo II crew as they made their flight to the moon.
Thanks to the work of people like the mathematician, the United States was able to claim a crucial victory over the Soviet Union in the intense "Space Race" of the '60s.
However, her significance extended beyond that. Katherine was influential in bringing both racial and sexual equality to NASA, an agency that was notoriously segregated in the '60s.
Condolences have poured in from all spheres of the scientific community, as the world mourns the passing of a pioneer.
In a statement via twitter, NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine described Katherine as an American hero who helped to expand the United States' space frontier.
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Thank you QUEEN #KatherineJohnson for sharing your intelligence, poise, grace and beauty with the world! Because of your hard work little girls EVERYWHERE can dream as big as the MOON!!! Your legacy will live on FORVER AND EVER!!! You ran so we could fly!!! I will forever be honored to have been apart of bringing your story to life. You/your story was hidden and thank GOD you are #hiddennomore🚀 God bless your beautiful family. I am so honored to have sat and broke bread with you all. My thoughts and prayers are with you! #RIHKatherineJohnson #representationmatters 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾💋💋💋
Taraji P. Henson, the actress who played Katherine in Hidden Figures, took to Instagram and thanked Katherine for inspiring generations of young girls.
In her post, she wrote that Katherine's diligence and hard work paved the way for young girls to dream big and achieve anything they set their minds to.