American mathematician Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson is renowned for her work with the country's space program. Her calculations and analyses helped with the moon landing and charting many flight routes.
She spent more than three decades working for NASA, during which time her innovative calculations boosted the agency's reputation. Johnson's talent for mathematics was evident even when she was a little girl. She obtained a degree in mathematics and graduated with top honours.
She started working for NASA's precursor, NACA, where she collaborated with other female employees in the West Computers branch. She evaluated test results and offered the mathematical explanations required for the space program. She estimated the course of Freedom 7 and the launch of Apollo 11, participated in NASA's Mercury program and calculated and evaluated the Mercury program.
Near the end of her career, she worked on the space shuttle program. Several awards were awarded to her, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her outstanding career defied gender and racist views and assisted America in achieving some of its most significant space accomplishments. In 1986, Johnson left NASA for good. Her life served as the basis for the novel "Hidden Figures," which was then made into a film.
Early Life and Childhood of Katherine Johnson
Joshua and Joylette Coleman welcomed Katherine Johnson into the world in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, on August 26, 1918. The youngest of four siblings. Katherine also has three older siblings. Her mother was a teacher, while her father was a handyman at the Greenbrier Hotel. From an early age, Johnson's aptitude for mathematics was clear. She graduated from high school when she was 14 years old. She was just eleven when she was required to enroll in West Virginia State College owing to her African-American race.
Later, she chose to study mathematics at West Virginia University and enrolled there. Due to her zeal, other professors expressed an interest in serving as her mentor. She earned a French and Mathematics degree Summa Cum laude in 1937. She started working as a teacher at a Marion, Virginia, public school. After being married to James Francis Goble in 1939, she quit her employment. She attended West Virginia University at the time and was one of the three African-American students there.
Family & Personal Life of Katherine Johnson
Katherine was married to James Francis Goble in 1939. Constance, Joylette, and Katherine were the three children born into the marriage. In 1956 her husband passes away from a tumor.
In 1959, she wed Lieutenant James A. Johnson, a veteran of World War II. She and her husband presently live in Hampton, Virginia. She inspires her grandchildren and former pupils to seek professions in science since her enthusiasm for the subject hasn't diminished.
Katherine Johnson's early propensity for arithmetic and interest in numbers naturally led her to pursue a career in research mathematics; however, White American men dominated in this profession and it was difficult for an African American woman to make a name for herself. A cousin informed her about work opportunities at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), NASA's precursor, in 1952. Mathematicians of any colour or gender were welcome to apply to work for NACA's Guidance and Navigation Department. In 1953, Johnson applied, was given a formal job offer, and accepted it.
She began her career at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Virginia. Later, she was transferred from the West Area Computers department to the Guidance and Control Division, mainly made up of male engineers. She served in this position between 1953 and 1958.
Racist laws afflicted the environment she worked in. Under federal employment segregation restrictions, African-American women were obliged to work, eat, and use bathrooms that were separate from their peers. "Colored Computers" was written on the workstations where they sat.
She was also essential in creating the astronauts' navigator maps in cases where the electric equipment failed. Astronaut John Glenn requested that Johnson calculate his orbit around the planet when NASA adopted the most recent technology. He stated that he would take off only if Johnson approved the calculations.
When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) took over NACA in 1958, the colored pool had to be dismantled. Johnson joined NASA in 1958 and was assigned to the Spacecraft Controls Branch, where she worked as an aerospace technician until her retirement in 1986.
Among her most famous contributions was the mathematical computation for Alan Shepard's space flight trajectory on May 5, 1961. As the first American to journey to space, he made history. She contributed to his Mercury mission's launch calculations as well.
With the introduction of digital computers, Johnson began interacting with them directly and quickly learned the new technology at her disposal. She determined the Apollo 11 flight's course, which resulted in the moon mission in 1969.
She contributed to the Apollo 13 moon mission in 1970. Her calculations, which centered on backup plans and nautical charts, secured the crew's safe return to Earth when the project was formally terminated. Johnson contributed to the Earth Resources Satellite, the Mars mission, and the Space Shuttle Program toward the conclusion of her career. It was 1986 when she left NASA.
The biography "Hidden Figures," written by Margot Lee Shetterly, includes a description of Johnson's life and the lives of other mathematical colleagues. In 2016, a critically acclaimed movie based on the novel with the same title starred Taraji Henson in the lead role. Johnson went to the Academy Awards that year because the movie was nominated.
Awards & Achievements of Katherine Johnson
Death of Katherine Johnson
She passed away on February 24, 2020. According to NASA Administrator James Bridenstine, "Our NASA family is shocked to hear that Katherine Johnson died this morning at the age of 101. She was a true American hero, and her pioneering legacy will continue forever."