Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson

Katie Nelson, Staff Writer

Her work for NASA-

Katherine Johnson, a brilliant mathematician who worked for NASA, passed away recently on February 24, 2020 at 101 years old.  She began working with NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) in 1953 in the West Area Computing unit (a group of African American women). During this period of time, NACA was still segregated, so the West Computers had to use separate bathrooms and eating areas thaen the rest of NACA.  It wasn’t until 1958 when NACA was transformed into NASA, which banned segregation. Katherine Johnson’s calculations were responsible for gaining the lead in the Space Race against the Soviet Union and safely bringing astronauts into outer space. In 1961 she calculated the flight for the Freedom 7 that put the first US astronaut in space.  For almost her entire career working with NASA, her work went unnoticed, until recently in 2016 when the film “Hidden Figures” was released. 

 

 Personal Life and Education-

Johnson was born to Joylette and Joshua Coleman on August 26, 1918.  She spent most of her young childhood in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.  From an early age her family and teachers could tell that she was a very smart child for a variety of reasons.  Johnson’s father wanted the best for his children, so he moved Katherine and her three older siblings to Institute, West Virginia because the schools where they lived weren’t very good.  At the age of 10, Johnson graduated 8th grade and started highschool. When she was just 18, she graduated West Virginia State College with the highest honors. After college, before she joined NACA, Johnson began teaching in schools in Virginia and West Virginia.  She married her first husband, James Goble, in 1939 until he died in 1956 due to a brain tumor. They had three children together; Constance, Joylette, and Katherine. Three years later, Katherine married her second husband, Jim Johnson, a United States Army officer and a veteran of the Korean War.  He died a few years ago in 2009.