HAMPTON, VA (WVNS/WAVY)– The iconic NASA mathematician and trailblazer Katherine G. Johnson has passed away.
Johnson was born in White Sulphur Springs, WV on August 26, 1918. She died at the age 101. According to NASA’s website, Johnson had a quest for racial equality, contributor to our nation’s first triumphs in human spaceflight and champion of STEM education.
NASA is deeply saddened by the loss of a leader from our pioneering days, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Johnson” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement Monday morning. “Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space … we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her …”
The groundbreaking African-American mathematician worked on complex space missions as a “human computer” for NASA Langley starting in the 1950s, including calculating the trajectories for Alan Shepard’s history-making journey into space, and giving the “go-ahead” for John Glenn’s historic mission into orbit.
Johnson graduated from West Virginia State College in 1937. In 1953 she was hired at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. She retired from the center in 1986.
In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, and was chosen in November to receive to the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor presented by Congress.
Her accomplishments at Langley were highlighted in the 2017 movie “Hidden Figures”.