Katherine Johnson (1918 - 2020), was a mathematician whose orbital calculations sent the first Americans into space.
Since a child, Katherine was always fascinated and skilled in mathematics and numbers. In fact, she had a jumpstart in her educational journey because of this. Katherine started her school career with the second grade, graduated from high school at just 14 years old, and was a Mathematics and French college graduate by the time she was 18.
Her career at NASA started in the 1950’s, where she was accepted to be part of the Space Task Group, which was a team of women.
In the 1960’s, Johnsons calculations made astronaut Alan Shepard’s Mercury mission and John Glen’s orbit around the earth three times possible. She also assisted in the plans for a mission to Mars. Furthermore, her knowledge on space has allowed her to co-author one of the first textbooks on space travel.
Amongst her countless awards, Katherine’s marvellous work awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom award for her work in the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), which is an award given to recognize people who have made contributions to the world.
To learn more on Katherine Johnson, her autobiography “Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson” can be found on Amazon.
“I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed… anything that could be counted, I did.” – Katherine Johnson