Mathematician Katherine Johnson Who Was Key To NASA’s Space Missions Passes Away At 101. The World Lost One Of Its Greatest Minds
Here’s the thing, in today’s day and age it is incredibly difficult to be a woman in a man’s world. You are constantly subjected to sexism, uncalled for comments and inappropriate behaviour. But, can you imagine what it must be like a 50 years ago for a woman to work in a workplace that is filled with men, mostly chauvinistic and entirely dismissive of your work? It must’ve been hell, but it was Kathrine Johnson “the human computer’s” reality. And with her passing yesterday at the age of 101, I think it is safe to say we lost one of the greatest minds of our generation.
Katherine was born in 1918 and she began working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (which would later be called NASA) in 1953. She was classified as “subprofessional”, a job that does not list far above a secretary or a janitor.
She was a mathematician by all accord, but when she began working her talents were not recognised. Her job entailed double checking all the mathematic calculations of her superiors, who were all male. She would have to use a slide rule or a mechanical calculator to check their complex calculations. The job title that was given to her and her colleagues who did this work was “computers”.
We're saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://t.co/Tl3tsHAfYB pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW
— NASA (@NASA) February 24, 2020
Kathrine was brilliant at her job and can be credited for the USA’s successful space expeditions. It was her that developed the equations that helped NACA and then its successor NASA to send astronauts to orbit the earth and even to the moon. She coded the mathematical principles that are at the core of human space travel. And those are the same equations and principles that are being used by NASA even today.
This incredible woman worked at NASA for 33 years, but her accomplishments were not recognised until decades later. While working at NACA she was made to work in a segregated wing with the other black women mathematicians. But her contributions led to many breakthroughs, which includes Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon. It was her math that allowed him to get to space and back safely. In 2017, NASA named a building after her.
Also Read: Christina Koch Returns To Earth, Becomes First Woman To Conduct A 328 Days Long Space Voyage And She’s Got Us Fangirling Hard
Tonight, count the stars and remember a trailblazer. ✨
A figure hidden no more, Katherine Johnson helped lead us into a new era in space exploration, and for that we are forever grateful. Join us in reflecting on her powerful legacy. https://t.co/oNW4tnOu0T
— NASA (@NASA) February 25, 2020
Her ground-breaking work was only publicly recognized after Barack Obama awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. She was also the inspiration behind “Hidden Figures” a bestselling book that was turned into an Oscar-nominated movie.
Kathrine’s loss is the loss of the entire world. She was a true legend and she will be missed.