NASA Facility Dedicated to Mathematician Katherine Johnson

NASA Facility Dedicated to Mathematician Katherine Johnson

Sarah Lewin, Staff Writer

Katherine Johnson, pictured here at NASA’s Langley Research Center, where she worked as a “computer” and mathematician from 1953 to 1986. Langley dedicated a computing facility to Johnson in a ceremony today (May 5).
Credit: NASA

NASA honored 97-year-old mathematician Katherine Johnson today (May 5) by dedicating a building in her name at the space agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Speakers at today’s ceremony included Virginia congressmen and the mayor of Hampton, as well as former astronaut Leland Melvin, who offered Johnson a Space Flight Awareness Silver Snoopy Award that had been flown on the space shuttle Atlantis.

The building’s dedication today was fitting; it occurred on the 55th anniversary of the first American spaceflight by astronaut Alan Shepard, whose suborbital trajectory Johnson calculated during her time working at Langley…

…At Langley, Johnson performed calculations for airplane safety and rocket-launch experiments, starting in 1953 as part of a pool of female “computers” and continuing until 1986. She worked by hand, and then with mechanical calculators — starting at the African-American-only West Area Computers but moving after two weeks to Langley’s flight research division. Eventually, Johnson worked with electronic computers, whose work she checked before the calculations were used in John Glenn’s groundbreaking orbit around the Earth in February 1962..

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