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

Math or French

Math or French

More From Katherine G.

In this video

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson was a student in both math and French, but a teacher with a strong opinion pushed her more toward math.

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

Faith Ringgold
Faith Ringgold
Artist & Activist

Faith Ringgold is one of America’s most gifted and generous visual storytellers. Though originally trained as a painter, she has worked to superb effect across media. Ringgol...

Suzanne Braun Levine
Suzanne Braun Levine
First Editor of Ms. Magazine & Author

Suzanne Braun Levine was the first editor of "Ms." magazine (1972-1988), and the first woman editor of the prestigious "Columbia Journalism Review". Suzanne...

Li Yinhe
Li Yinhe
China's First Female Sexologist

Li Yinhe is a sociologist, sexologist and LGBT rights activist from Beijing, China. Dubbed “China’s first sexologist,” Li is a pioneer for women and gender studie...

Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton
Professional Surfer

Born into a family of surfers in Kauai, Hawaii, Bethany Hamilton has been surfing almost as long as she has been walking. Entering her first competition around age four, and sponso...