Celebrate Women's History Month with Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson is one of the women behind some of the most important space launches in history, and one of the main women celebrated in the movie "Hidden Figures"

Katherine Johnson was a trailblazer. She wanted to be a research mathematician, and she wasn’t going to let something as meaningless as society tell her she couldn’t. 

Johnson was born during a time of rampant racial and gender discrimination. Although she showed strong mathematical skills from an early age, the county she lived in didn’t offer educational opportunities for African Americans past eighth grade.

Katherine Johnson

She graduated high school early, at age 14, and enrolled in West Virginia State, a Historically Black College.

Early Graduation

After college, she became one of the first three African American students selected to integrate into West Virginia University’s graduate program after the Supreme Court ruled that states must make public higher education available to black students if it was available to white students.

Education During Segregation

Katherine Johnson’s goal was to work as a research mathematician.  Unfortunately, that field was very limited for African Americans and for women, and she was only able to find teaching positions

Early Career Limitations

She got her chance in 1952 when the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), an equal opportunity employer, put out a hiring call for mathematicians.  Johnson started with NACA in 1953.