Space Programs Mathematician Katherine Johnson Passes Away at Age 101

President Barack Obama presents former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as professional baseball player Willie Mays, right, looks on, November 24, 2015, during a ceremony at the White House. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
President Barack Obama presents former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as professional baseball player Willie Mays, right, looks on, November 24, 2015, during a ceremony at the White House. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who contributed to the early US space programs, has passed away. She was 101 years old.

Johnson’s significant contributions on Mercury, Apollo missions, and other NASA projects were brought into the light with the 2016 Hidden Figures book and 2019 movie of the same name. She was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2015.

Born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia on August 26, 1918, she passed away on February 24, 2020.

Statement from NASA Langley Center Director Clayton Turner:

We are saddened to learn of the passing of Katherine G. Johnson, a woman whose service to NASA and our nation will not be forgotten. Her strength of character, bravery and mastery of mathematics helped America push beyond inequality to accomplish what some thought impossible.

Her life will inspire Americans for generations to come.

Here at NASA’s Langley Research Center, where Johnson worked for some 33 years, we will carry forward her legacy. Katherine Johnson believed in equality. She overcame obstacles to achieve great things and make life better for others.

Her example continues to guide us as we push the boundaries of human exploration, forward to the Moon and on to Mars.

Statement of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine:
NASA is deeply saddened by the loss of a leader from our pioneering days, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Johnson. 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. Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the Moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars. Her Presidential Medal of Freedom was a well-deserved recognition.
At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her. We will continue building on her legacy and work tirelessly to increase opportunities for everyone who has something to contribute toward the ongoing work of raising the bar of human potential.

 

More Information/Resources

Read Katherine Johnson’s biography on the NASA website at www.nasa.gov/content/katherine-johnson-biography.

Watch the NASA Memorial Video on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8wBJ71zJ34.

The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at NASA Langley was named for her in 2017.

In 2018, Katherine Johnson was inducted into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Society Shrine in North Carolina.

On February 22, 2019, NASA announced it was renaming one of its West Virginia facilities for Katherine Johnson.  A ribbon-cutting was held on July 2, 2019.

Watch the Hidden Figures movie trailer and clips at family.foxmovies.com/movies/hidden-figures. (Or better yet, watch the whole movie.)

See classroom/student resources via the NASA website.

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About Kay Whatley 2192 Articles
Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.