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"Hidden Figure" NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson Dies at 101

A woman in a wheelchair receives an award
(Photo: NASA Langley Images)

VPM's Hawes Spencer contributed to this report. 

NASA says a pioneering black mathematician, who worked in a racially segregated computing unit at what is now the Langley Research Center in Hampton, died Monday morning. 

Katherine Johnson worked on NASA’s early space missions and was portrayed in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” which was nominated for an Oscar.  

The director of NASA Langley said in a statement to VPM News that “Johnson’s life will inspire Americans for generations to come.”

Johnson was 101 years old. 

VPM's Hawes Spencer spoke with author Margot Lee Shetterly, who wrote the book "Hidden Figures." She says Americans and learn from Johnson's life. 

"Johnson was an amazing person, also a superhero, but a real person," Shetterly said. "Contributions come from all around us, and they come every single day, and I think that's really the lesson of Katherine Johnson."

In 2015, the year before the film was released, President Barack Obama presented Johnson with the Medal of Freedom. Two years later, NASA's Langley Research CeResearch Facility dedicated a new research building in her name.

"We are saddened to learn of the passing of Katherine G. Johnson, a woman whose service to NASA and our nation will not be forgotten. Her strength of character, bravery and mastery of mathematics helped America push beyond inequality to accomplish what some thought impossible.

Her life will inspire Americans for generations to come.

Here at NASA’s Langley Research Center, where Johnson worked for some 33 years, we will carry forward her legacy. Katherine Johnson believed in equality. She overcame obstacles to achieve great things and make life better for others.

Her example continues to guide us as we push the boundaries of human exploration, forward to the Moon and on to Mars."

Clayton Turner

Director, NASA Langley Research Center


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