Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson was born on August 26, 1918. She was an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA. Her calculations of orbital mechanics were important for the success of the first and subsequent U.S. manned spaceflights. Her life featured in Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures, which was also - somewhat loosely - made into a movie.

These days there are computers to help out with complex calculations. But we have to remember that Johnson did all of it by hand. NASA was only just beginning to use computers. (Margaret Hamilton's pioneering work in software engineering didn't come until the Apollo program.)

Johnson died earlier this year, aged 101. I saw a delightful little mathematical tribute to her passing: She died in her prime.


Mona Evans
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