Katherine Johnson was an African-American STEM pioneer who played a key role in the success of the first manned moon landing.
“(The other women) didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.” – Katherine Johnson
- Katherine was born in 1918 in West Virginia, USA
- When she was only 18 years old Katherine graduated from university, she studied Mathematics and French
- She got a job at NASA in the 1950’s as a ‘computer’ – back when people not machines computed difficult mathematical calculations
- She worked on flight paths for space missions, successfully calculating the launch window for the 1961 manned mission to Mercury
- Katherine did most of the calculations for the path of the first manned mission to the Moon in 1969 – where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to walk on the Moon’s surface
- Over the years her calculations and work have helped many astronauts visit space and return safely
- Katherine authored and co-authored 26 scientific papers and she also helped write the first textbook about space travel
- In 2015 Barack Obama presented her with the presidential medal of freedom – the USA’s highest civilian honour
- The 2016 film’Hidden Figures’ was based on Katherine’s story – she was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson
- Katherine died in February 2020 – at the age of 101
You can find out more about Katherine’s incredible life here and we definitely recommend the film ‘Hidden Figures’ which is available to rent or buy here.
Lily & Maisie
2 Sisters In STEM
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