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

Lilly Ledbetter
Lilly Ledbetter
Equal Pay for Equal Work

Lilly Ledbetter worked as an area manager at Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Alabama for nineteen years. Her crusade to remedy the gender-based pay discrimination that she suffered duri...

Emily May
Emily May
Harassment Avenger

Emily May is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of New York City-based Hollaback!, an organization which empowers women and LGBTQ folks with an empowered response to street hara...

Ursula Burns
Ursula Burns
CEO, Xerox Corporation

"I'm a black lady from the Lower East Side of New York," Ursula Burns told Fast Company in 2011. "Not a lot intimidates me." It’s a stance that has se...

Esta Soler
Esta Soler
Founder, Futures Without Violence

Esta Soler is President of Futures Without Violence, a leading non-profit organization in the fight against domestic violence. She was born in Bridgeport, CT, in 1947 and has a Mas...