Friday, 31 March 2017
Women in Science - Katherine Goble Johnson
I've just been to see Hidden Figures, the film about Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who all did outstanding work for NASA in the early days of space exploration.
Katherine Goble was the "computer" who calculated the trajectories of rockets. She worked on the early missions of Alan Shepherd and John Glenn, and on the Apollo 11 mission, right up to space shuttle flights in the 1980s. She's still alive at the age of 98, and has said of the film Hidden Figures: "It was well-done. The three leading ladies did an excellent job portraying us."
Along the way, she was one of the first African-Americans to attend graduate school at West Virginia University, and the first African-American woman to do so. The film points out the many difficulties of living in a segregated society - it wasn't easy for any of them, and they had to be extraordinarily determined to do what they wanted to do.
She had three daughters, Constance, Joylette and Katherine, and after her first husband died of a brain tumour, she married James Johnson - and they've been together ever since. They still live in Hampton, Virginia, near the NASA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory where she did her work.
On May 5, 2016, a new 40,000-square-foot building was named Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility and formally dedicated at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Katherine Johnson was there as guest of honour. It was the 55th anniversary of Alan Shepherd's flight, for which she had provided crucial calculations.
And here she is recieving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama: