Katherine Johnson, a pioneering NASA mathematician whose work inspired the film “Hidden Figures,” died this week. She was 101.
NASA announced Johnson’s death on Monday.
Johnson was part of NASA’s “Computer Pool,” a group of mathematicians whose data powered NASA’s first successful space missions. The group’s success largely hinged on the accomplishments of its black women members.
Her work went largely unrecognized until the release of 2017’s “Hidden Figures,” a film portrayal of Johnson’s accomplishments while the space agency was still largely segregated.
By the time Johnson retired from NASA in 1986, she’d mapped the moon’s surface ahead of the 1969 landing and helped astronauts aboard the Apollo 13 safely land back on Earth.
In 2015, President Barack Obama honored Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her integral work in American space travel.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine called Johnson an “American hero.”
“Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space,” he said in a statement. “At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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