Katherine Johnson, Inspiration for Hidden Figures Movie, Has Died at 101

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Katherine Johnson, one of the women who worked as a mathematician for NASA and inspired the movie “Hidden Figures,” has died at the age of 101. The news of her death was announced by NASA and in a tweet shared to their social media account, Jim Bridenstine, a NASA administrator, stated that Johnson “was an American hero and her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten.”

In 2016, Katherine Johnson had her story told to the world with the help of actress Taraji P. Henson and the rest of the cast of the movie “Hidden Figures.” In the movie, Henson portrayed the other woman and what it was like to help in the space race, while also dealing with both racism and sexism.

In real life, Johnson began working at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’, which was the predecessor for NASA, in 1953. Her work included doing the trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961. However, she is perhaps best known for helping to get John Glenn into space for his first orbital flight. In fact, this is the story that was told in “Hidden Figures,” and that helped to get Katherine Johnson and the other black women who acted as trailblazers for NASA into the public eye.

Katherine Johnson retired from her work at NASA in 1986 at the age of 68. She was propelled to fame and a national stage with the help of Hollywood and the movie about her role in the space race in 2016. Then in 2019, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for her contributions to the country.

Written by Kimberley Spinney

Sources:

NBC News – Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician depicted in ‘Hidden Figures,’ dies at 101
NASA – Katherine Johnson Biography

Image Credit – NASA/Aubrey Gemignani and the NASA HQ Photo Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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