The day before Katherine Johnson’s 100th Birthday, a statue was unveiled in her honor on the grounds of her alma mater, West Virginia State University (WVSU). The NASA pioneer started school at WVSU at the age of 15, and graduated summa cum laude at the age of 18 with a bachelor’s degree in math and french. Johnson worked at NASA for 33 years, calculating flight trajectories for the first American to go into space, the first American to orbit the earth, and the flight path for the first human trip to the moon. Katherine Johnson was an integral part of several launches. Most notably, when preparing for the first American orbit of the earth, astronaut John Glenn refused to fly unless Johnson verified the calculations done by the computers. The movie “Hidden Figures” portrays Johnson and several other female African-American mathematicians through their work with NASA.
Learn more about Johnson and the ceremony to honor her here.