Katherine Johnson is a former NASA mathematician whose story was made famous in the bestselling book and Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Born in 1918 in West Virginia, she showed an exceptional talent for math from a young age, and became one of the first African Americans to enroll in the graduate mathematics program at West Virginia University. In 1953, she became a research mathematician for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, later NASA), where she put her mathematics skills to work on the space program. Even after NASA began using electronic computers, John Glenn requested that she personally recheck the calculations before his flight aboard the Friendship 7—the mission on which he became the first American to orbit the Earth. Her calculations also proved critical to the success of the Apollo Lunar landing program and the start of the Space Shuttle program. Katherine coauthored many scientific papers and has received numerous awards, including the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Barack Obama.
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