'Hidden Figures' NASA Women to Receive Congressional Gold MedalsBy Staff Reporter, UniversityHerald Reporter
Three African American females who were represented as NASA women in the 2016 film, "Hidden Figures", will be given Congressional Gold Medals.
The recent law H.R. 1396, better known as the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act, was signed by President Donald Trump to give Congressional award to Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson. Vaughan and Jackson will receive their honor even they already passed away.
The tree celebrities, who were casted in the movie, are Taraji Henson, Janelle Monáe, and Octavia Spencer. The said movie shows the real-life story of Johnson, Jackson, and Vaughan. These NASA historical women faced discriminatory behavior, racism, and segregation throughout their career until they were able to play a vital role in preparing John Glenn's orbital mission on Earth. These women were incredible to help make a wonderful history.
Katherine Johnson is the only living member of the ultimate trio. She just turned 101 in August. The NASA female mathematician received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last 2015. In 2017, Johnson's dedication to Katherine Johnson's Computational Research Facility in Hampton, Virginia was finally honored by NASA.
In order to know more about Katherine Johnson before all of these achievements happened, here are some of important events in her life to become a famous NASA female mathematician.
In year 1918 at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Katherine Coleman Johnson was born. She was the youngest of four children and her family was living an average kind of life. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a farmer, lumberman, handyman, and worked at a hotel.
During those times, color segregation is strictly prohibited. Johnson developed her strong mathematical skills at a very young age. Since Greenbrier County did not allow public schooling for African-American students after eight-grade, Katherine's parents arranged for their children to attend high school in Institute, West Virginia. At the age of ten, Katherine was already enrolled. Her family was able to manage their time between Institute during the school season and White Sulphur Springs during summer vacation.
After graduating from high school at the age of 14, she took every math course offered by the college. In fact one of her professors, Claytor, added new math courses just for Katherine's sake only.
In 1937, she graduated summa sum laude, with mathematics and French degrees at the age of 18. She then started teaching at a black public school in Marion, Virginia.
Katherine Johnson was able to marry her first husband and got pregnant with her first child. This pushed her to quit teaching and focus on her family life. Then during a family gathering, one relative told her about the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics publication of hiring a mathematician.
In 1953, she became part of the NASA team. Firstly, she worked in a pool of women solving varieties of math problems. She was better known as the "virtual computer who wore skirts", in the group. Katherine's specialty in analytical geometry has opened many doors for the lady of the century.