Katherine Johnson Biography
Katherine Johnson was an American Mathematician whose orbital mechanics calculations as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent spaceflights crewed by the US. She earned a reputation for performing complex manual calculations during her 35-year tenure at NASA and its predecessor, and helped pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks.
She was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, United States, on 26 August 1918. The space agency noted its “historical role as one of the first women from Africa to work as a NASA scientist.” Katherine died at the age of 101, on 24 February 2020.
Katherine Johnson Age
She Was 101 Years Old
Katherine Johnson Education
Johnson had demonstrated strong mathematical skills from an early age. Because Greenbrier County did not offer African-American students public schooling past the eighth grade, the Colemans arranged for their children to attend high school in Institute, West Virginia.
The school was on West Virginia State College’s campus (WVSC, now West Virginia State University). Johnson enrolled when she was just ten. During the school year the family split their time between the Institute and White Sulphur Springs in the summer.
Johnson entered West Virginia State, a historically Black college, after graduating from high school at the age of 14. As a student, she had taken every mathematics course the college offered. She was mentored by multiple professors including the chemist and mathematician Angie Turner King, who had also mentored Johnson throughout high school, and W. W. Schieffelin Claytor, the third African-American national to receive a PhD in mathematics.
Just for Katherine, Claytor added new mathematics courses. She graduated from summa cum laude at age 18 in 1937, with degrees in mathematics and French. She acquired a teaching job at a public black school in Marion, Virginia.
Katherine Johnson Parents
Katherine mother name was Joylette and Father name was Joshua Coleman. Her birth-name was Johnson Katherine Coleman Goble. She was the youngest of four kids. Her mother was a teacher and her father at the Greenbrier Hotel was a lumberman, a fisherman, a handyman.
Katherine Johnson Career
Johnson decided to pursue a career as a research mathematician, though this was a difficult field to enter for African Americans and women. Her first jobs were in teaching. A relative mentioned at a family reunion in 1952, that the National Aeronautics Advisory Committee (NACA) was hiring mathematicians.
|Mrs. Johnson at NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1980.|
NACA recruited African-American mathematicians as well as whites for their Guidance and Navigation Department at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, located in Hampton, Virginia, near Langley Field. In 1953, Johnson accepted an Agency job offer.
Johnson worked as a “computer” from 1953 to 1958, researching subjects such as aircraft garbage alleviation. Originally assigned to the West Area Computers section, supervised by mathematician Dorothy Vaughan, Johnson has been reassigned to the Langley Flight Research Division’s Guidance and Control Division.
|Mrs. Johnson did the trajectory analysis for the launch of Freedom 7 in 1961, the Mercury program mission on which Alan B. Shepard became the first American in space.|
Johnson stated in an interview with WHRO-TV that she is “didn’t feel the segregation at NASA, because everybody there was doing research. You had a mission and you worked on it, and it was important for you to do your job … and play bridge at lunch.” She added: “I didn’t feel any segregation. I knew it was there, but I didn’t feel it.”
Johnson served as an aerospace technologist from 1958 until her retirement in 1986, switching to the Spacecraft Controls Department throughout her career. She measured the trajectory for the Alan Shepard, the first American in space, space flight on 5 May 1961. She also calculated the launch window for his mission to Mercury in 1961.
In 1961, her work helped to ensure that the Freedom 7 Mercury capsule from Alan Shepard was found quickly after landing, using the precise trajectory that had been established.
Also, she helped calculate the trajectory for the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon in 1969. Johnson was at a meeting in the Pocono Mountains during the moon landing.
Katherine Johnson Marriage
In 1939, Katherine married James Francis Goble (then, Coleman). They had three daughters: Constance, Katherine and Joylette. She and James moved their family to Newport News in 1953 to pursue new employment opportunities. James Goble died in 1956 from an inoperable brain tumor. In 1959 Katherine Goble remarried James A. Johnson, a U.S. Army officer, and a Korean War veteran.
Katherine Johnson Cause of Death
On 24 February 2020, at age 101, Katherine Johnson died. After her death, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine described her as “an American hero” and stated that “her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten.”
Nasa announced her death on Twitter, saying it was celebrating her life and honoring “her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers”.
In Nasa’s early space flights, Ms. Johnson measured rocket trajectories, and Earth orbits.