Mathematician of the Month

Katherine Johnson


August 26th 1918 – February 24th 2020

What did they do? What did they work on?

  • 1953- 1958: Katherine worked for NACA (which later was superseded by NASA), her job title was computer, and she worked as part of a pool of women performing maths calculations.
  • Being a computer, involved performing precise mathematical tasks.
  • One day Katherine was assigned to support an all-male flight research team – it was Katherine’s knowledge of analytic geometry that proved invaluable to them.
  • Katherine’s assertiveness helped ensure she was included in meetings where previously racial and gender barriers would have prevented her attending. Katherine had done the work and she knew that was where she belonged.
  • Until 1958: Katherine was part of the coloured computing pool, where in accordance with state laws, African-American women had to work, eat and use separate toilets from their white peers.
  • Katherine calculated the trajectory for the flight of the first American in space in 1961.
  • 1969: Katherine helped to calculate the trajectory for the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon.

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