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Katherine Johnson
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, gift of Annie Leibovitz, (c) Annie Leibovitz

Katherine Johnson passed away this morning at the age of 101.

Katherine Johnson was a brilliant NASA mathematician who broke barriers and made history. She developed equations that helped the US launch its first astronaut into space in 1961. Her orbital mechanics of calculations also safely planted Apollo 11 on the moon in 1969.  She worked for NASA for over 30 years, where she continued to make landmark contributions.

NASA noted her “historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist.”

Johnson had already made history, albeit quietly, before her NASA career even began. She and two men became the first three black students admitted to West Virginia University. The state had unobtrusively integrated its graduate schools in 1939.

Though Johnson’s significant work and contributions went mostly unrecognized by mainstream media throughout her career, in 2015 she was put in front of the public eye when was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

The following year, Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures highlighted Johnson’s many accomplishments, and in 2017 a film by the same name was released. Johnson, then 98 years old, was the only one of the movie’s main characters to still be alive at the time of it’s release. When she took the stage at the Academy Awards she received a standing ovation.

Later that year (2017), NASA dedicated a new state-of-the-art facility to her, naming it the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted earlier today, “The @NASA family will never forget Katherine Johnson’s courage and the milestones we could not have reached without her. Her story and her grace continue to inspire the world…”

RIP dear Katherine Johnson.

Photos, interview/video and tweet below:

Katherine Johnson
Janelle Monae, Katherine Johnson, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer at the Oscars on Feb. 26, 2017 for the Hidden Figures film. Patrick Wymore / ABC via Getty Images file. NBC News.
Katherine at desk
1962 in Hampton, Virginia. (Photo by NASA/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images). Source:

An interview from 2017:

Tweet from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine:


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