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.


Langley's Black Mathematicians

Langley's Black Mathematicians

More From Katherine G.

In this video

Katherine Johnson talks about Langley's quota for black female mathematicians and how she waited for a job opening.

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

Marian Wright Edelman
Marian Wright Edelman
Founder, Children's Defense Fund

Marian Wright Edelman is a renowned activist who has been fighting for the rights of children for the last 40 years. Through the Children’s Defense Fund that she established ...

Nikki Henderson
Nikki Henderson
Local Food Activist

Through mentoring, tutoring and directing Foster Youth Empowerment workshops, Nikki Henderson developed her passion for youth leadership among communities of color. Combining this ...

Cady Coleman
Cady Coleman

As a chemist and an astronaut, Cady Coleman boasts an impressive list of accolades that orbit around science and space. The former United States Air Force officer has logged n...

Elizabeth Gore
Elizabeth Gore
Activist & Cause Marketer

Elizabeth Gore grew up working on her family's cattle ranch in Texas. Now the Vice President of Global Partnerships for the United Nations Foundation, she is currently managing...