Person: Johnson (4), Katherine
Katherine Johnson was an African-American mathematician who made contributions to NASA's space programmme. She was featured in the 2017 film Hidden figures.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Katherine attended elementary school from the age of five but even at that stage she was advanced for her age and went straight into the second grade.
- Katherine began her studies at West Virginia State High School in 1928 and graduated in 1932.
- She was a tremendous influence on Katherine both in high school and later in West Virginia State College where she also taught.
- Katherine also became very interested in astronomy while at the high school.
- After graduating from Virginia State High School, Katherine made the natural progression to West Virginia State College having been awarded a full scholarship covering her tuition fees, room and board.
- This College, now West Virginia State University, was a black college, founded in 1890 but only taking the name West Virginia State College in 1929, three years before Katherine began her studies there.
- But Claytor did far more that simply encourage, he made sure she took all the right courses and when he realised that she would need a background in analytic geometry that the College did not offer, he simply put on a course just for Katherine.
- Katherine graduated with a B.S. 'summa cum laude' in 1937 majoring in both mathematics and French.
- After graduating, Katherine took a job as a teacher in an elementary school in Marion, Virginia.
- When the driver said all the coloured people were to be put into taxis, Katherine refused until he asked politely.
- In 1952 Katherine visited her relatives in Newport News, Virginia and was told that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) (later to become NASA) hired black women mathematicians.
- When she began working at NACA Katherine was assigned to the office which housed the black "computers" who were loaned to whichever Division required assistance.
- This paper was the first of 21 papers co-authored by Katherine while working for NASA.
- They were introduced by the minister at Carver Memorial Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Virginia, where Katherine sang in the choir.
- During her tenure at NASA, Johnson received many prestigious awards.
- In addition to these NASA awards, Johnson has been honoured with an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the State University of New York and honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Capitol College in Maryland and Old Dominion University in Virginia.
- As mentioned in this quote, the State University of New York at Farmingdale awarded Johnson an honorary doctorate on 4 June 1998.
- For your contribution as a pioneer in aerospace technology and your continuing pursuit of excellence in education, the State University of New York at Farmingdale proudly confers on you, Katherine Johnson, the prestigious Doctor of Laws degree, 'honoris causa'.
- Johnson retired in 1986 and, as well as her leisure activities of playing bridge, solving puzzles and watching sport, she has enjoyed travelling and speaking about her career to encourage students to achieve their potential.
- Johnson was named West Virginia State College Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 1999.
- On 5 May 2016, NASA named one of the buildings at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia the 'Katherine G Johnson Computational Research Facility'.
- In 2017 Johnson became even better known when a movie about Johnson's life called Hidden Figures was released.
Born 26 August 1918, White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, USA. Died 24 February 2020, Newport News, Virginia, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
African American, Astronomy, Origin Usa, Women
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive