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NASA mathematicians Katherine Johnson dead at 101

She was one of the black women celebrated in the film 'Hidden Figures'
Feb 24, 2020 – 11:56 AM EST

Katherine Johnson reached for the moon for NASA, she was one of the greatest mathematicians in the world at the time. Working with a pencil and a slide rule.

Back then before the power of computers that calculated trajectories, everything had to be done by hand. Any single error could have been a life or death situation for the space crew. A lot of calculations were in the hands of Katherine.

She made impeccable calculations that helped plot the flight of Alan B. Shepard, Jr., who was the first American in space on the Mercury spacecraft in 1961.

The next year, she helped plot courses for John Glenn, on the spacecraft Mercury Friendship 7 to become the first American to orbit the Earth.

Throughout the tenure of Katherine's time at NASA's Flight and Research Division, she made precise calculations to flight crews.

Katherine also endured some struggles in an era which women, especially of African-American decent were struggling to be noticed.

It had taken awhile for Katherine to be recognized. She was amongst a small group of black women at the government branch working.

In 2015, President Barack Obama had awarded Katherine with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The President proclaimed "Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.”

Her story was explained in the 2016 film "Hidden Figures" that helped shine some light on the work she had done as well as her colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

At 98 and a half years of age, Katherine had recieved standing ovation at the Academy Awards in 2017. The movie recieved the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a cast in a motion picture.