Katherine Johnson Known as the girl who loved to count. “I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did” (https://www.nasa.gov.html). How did she help get John Glenn to space? Katherine Johnson was called to help prepare the way for John Glenn to space. As part of the preflight checklist John asked to get her so she could run the same numbers through the same equations that had been done on the computer but he wanted it by hand on her desktop mechanical calculating machine.
Katherine Johnson had become amazing at math she had started school on the campus of West Virginia State College at the age of 13, received the Presidential Medal of freedom, and has made the world a better place by sending a man to the moon. Katherine Johnson was born on August 26, 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Her mom was a teacher while her father was a janitor and a farmer. Katherine had loved math, she had been doing so well with it that she had been moved ahead several grade levels. At the age of 18, she had enrolled in college where she made work along with the school’s math mentor, W.W. Schieffelin Claytor, who had been the third African American to earn a PhD in Mathematics. She graduated with the highest honors in 1937 and took a job teaching at a public school in Virginia.
In 1939, West Virginia’s state president had selected Katherine and two other students spots at the state’s flagship school, West Virginia University. Katherine quickly took the chance and had enrolled into the graduate math program. At the end of the first session of school, she had left to start a family with her husband.
She had returned to teaching when her daughters had gotten older, but it wasn’t until 1952 that a relative had told her about open positions at the all-black West Area Computing section at NACA in the laboratory, along with Dorothy Vaughan. Her family had moved to Newport News to let her pursue the opportunity. She began working in the summer of 1953. Dorothy Vaughan assigned Katherine to a project in the Maneuver Loads Branch of Flight which made her temporary position become permanent. She spent the next four years analyzing and studying data from the flight tests and worked on an investigation of a plane crash.
Katherine’s husband had passed away in 1956 from cancer when she had just almost finished her work. During the Apollo year’s, Katherine solved and calculated many different problems to see which would work best to bring them home. On November 24, 2015, Katherine had received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama. She had received the metal because she was a NASA mathematician who calculated and verified the travel that took the first Americans to space.
Most black women wouldn’t get credit for their work and were largely unknown to most of the world. Katherine Johnson has made an impact on the world because she helped fly the first man to orbit space, three times. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly in 2016, had showed how black women worked in space race but the story is based off of Katherine and her friends. She sent John Glenn in orbit in space which brought led to astronauts and more people flying into space within the next years. She had received many awards for her outstanding work like the Medal of Freedom from President Obama, worked on calculations to bring the Apollo astronauts to return from the moon, and just recently in 2017 she was honored by NASA. NASA had opened and let Katherine cut the ribbon to the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.
President Obama said “In her 33 years at NASA, Katherine was a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars” (https://theportalist.com). Katherine Johnson had faced segregation and gender issues throughout her time at NASA, most worker their were men, not women.
Katherine Johnson…. the girl who loved to count. “Luck is a combination of preparation and opportunity. If you’re prepared and the opportunity comes up, it’s your good fortune to have been in the right place at the right time and to have been prepared for the job” (http://www.theheroinecollective.com).
Katherine Johnson had worked in some of the worst conditions during segregation and gender differences, but that didn’t stop her from doing what she loved. From a very young age she enjoyed math and became now a very accomplished African American women. She accomplished many different awards throughout her lifetime which made her stronger, happier, and very dedicated. Without Katherine, we might not have gotten John Glenn to orbit in space three times or even brought home the Apollo Astronauts. Katherine Johnson, is still alive today and is a hero in my eyes because everything she did was amazingly creative and she enjoyed her work which not all people do