Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

MAKERS Moment

Computations to the Moon

Computations to the Moon

More From Katherine G.

In this video

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson shares the DIY method she and her team used to help visualize the flight computation to the moon.

Katherine G.'s Biography

Love for Math:Because there's an exact answer.
Early Affinity for Numbers:"They tell me I counted everything."
Growing Up an African American Girl:"You could be a nurse or a teacher."
The Power of Teachers:"The fact that teachers can obstruct or they can assist. And mine always assisted me in moving up."

Katherine G. Johnson is a pioneer in American space history. A NASA mathematician, Johnson's computations have influenced every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle. She even calculated the flight path for the first American mission space.
 
Born in 1918 in West Virginia, Johnson was a talented student who entered college at only 15 years old. At West Virginia State University, W.W. Schiefflin Clayor, the third African American to earn a PhD. in mathematics, recognized Johnson's abilities and motivated her to take advanced math. Johnson would go on to earn a graduate degree in mathematics.
 
In 1953, Johnson was contracted as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA. She worked in a pool of women performing math calculations until she was temporarily assigned to help the all-male flight research team, and wound up staying there. Johnson’s specialty was calculating the trajectories for space shots which determined the timing for launches, including the Mercury mission and Apollo 11, the mission to the moon.
 

Related Videos

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
U.S. Supreme Court Justice

Long before Ruth Bader Ginsburg became only the second woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, she broke countless legal and professional barriers for women. Raised in a wo...

Louann Brizendine
Louann Brizendine
Neuropsychiatrist & Author

Louann Brizendine, M.D. is a practicing clinician, neuropsychiatrist and author, specializing in the relationship dynamics resulting from the neurobiology of male and female brains...

Kris Carr
Kris Carr
Cancer Survivor & Author

Kris Carr is a best-selling author, filmmaker, motivational speaker and wellness coach. After being diagnosed with a rare and incurable stage four cancer, Kris was inspired to prom...

Wendy Kopp
Wendy Kopp
Founder & CEO, Teach For America

Wendy Kopp is CEO and founder of Teach For America. The idea first came to her as a senior in college, and she proposed the concept in her senior thesis. Following graduation, she ...