Saturday, 20 May 2017
Black Women in Science - Annie Easley
Annie Easley was a computer scientist, mathematician and rocket scientist. She worked for NASA at the Lewis Research Centre, where she was one of the first African-American computer scientists, and was part of the team which developed software for the Centaur rocket stage.
She went to Xavier University New Orleans, where she majored in pharmacy. At that time, in Alabama, in order for a black person to vote, they had to pass a difficult literacy test and pay a poll tax (this was 1954). According to Wikipedia, the person giving the tests saw that she had gone to Xavier University, and waived the test in her case, just charging her two dollars. Later, she helped other people prepare for the literacy test, which was only abolished in 1965.
Unable to continue her pharmacy studies when she married and moved to Cleveland, Ohio (the university there had recently stopped its pharmacy program), she heard that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NACA - the predecessor to NASA - was looking for "computers" and applied for a job. In 1955, a computer was a person who did the maths manually. She was one of only four African-Americans in a staff of 2,500. She spent 34 years working for them, on many different projects. Later at NASA, she also worked as an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor, where she educated supervisors about workplace discrimination on not just race and gender, but age as well.
She retired in 1989. She was also a founder member, and eventually president, of the NASA Lewis Ski Club. She learned to ski when she was 46.
She died in 2011.