Mathematics Pioneer Katherine Johnson To Receive Honorary Degree

Photo via NASA

Katherine G. Johnson, whose contributions to the astronaut John Glenn‘s 1962 orbit around Earth inspired the film (and bookHidden Figures, will be receiving an honorary degree from Spelman College during the school’s commencement on Sunday.

Born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Johnson ended up graduating from West Virginia State College (now University), where she majored in mathematics and French and graduated summa cum laude at the age of 18, earning a Bachelor of Science degree. Johnson was also one of the first African-Americans to attend West Virginia University.

In 1953, Johnson joined the Langley Research Center (LRC) which ultimately became NASA, where she contributed to multiple programs, most notably Glenn’s orbit around Earth and the 1969 Apollo flight to the moon.

Johnson’ legacy has since been immortalized, with her contributions to Glenn’s orbit a part of the movie Hidden Figures. In the film, black mathematicians Johnson (portrayed by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (portrayed by Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (portrayed by Janelle Monae) help NASA with its Friendship 7 mission, in an attempt at defeating the Soviet Union in the Space Race.

Johnson also has her very own Lego figure, which is a part of a “Women of NASA” Lego set created by Maia Weinstock. The set also includes Margaret Hamilton, Nancy Grace Roman, Mae Jemison and Sally Ride.

Source via Spelman College


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