Katherine Johnson 1918-
Judging by the way Catherine took 2 math, you would think it was her first language. As a child, she counted everything. She skipped seven grades and graduated ahead of her older siblings. As a young woman, she became a math teacher, but her Mentor at the University of West Virginia encourage her to pursue a career as a research mathematician. In 1953, Catherine got her chance. NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, had recently opened a lab that hired African-American mathematicians. And a time before there were digital calculators, cell phones, or computer Michigan's, the women and men who performed computations were called "computers". Katherine's first assignment was to the flight research division. The United States was in the middle of the Space Race, a period of time in the 1950s and 60s when America and Russia were competing for technological advancement in spaceflight. The top goal: to get a man on the moon. Katherine was one of the people who helped make it happen. Her job was to calculate the flight path for the first mission in space. Imagine: the Earth is rotating, the Moon is revolving, and the rocket has to follow a very specific trajectory in order to reach its moving Target. Even when we can tackle computers were introduced, Katherine was still crucial. She continued Computing at Nasa until her retirement in 1986, and her work influenced every major Space Program up to that point. During the Friendship 7 mission in 1962, John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, refused to launch without verification that Catherine herself had double check the math. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Katherine the presidential medal of freedom, America's highest civilian honor.
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