Iris DiezKillpack History of Math25 January 2018Katherine JohnsonKatherine Johnson was a woman of grit, and intelligence. While overcoming stereotypes, discrimination, and having fewer opportunities, Johnson excelled in college starting her path to making calculations for NASA and it’s space expeditions.
Johnson’s endeavors were supported by her parents, and later by her now deceased husband, current husband, and children. (Katherine G. Johnson) Johnson’s subjects of study within the math subject include aeronautics, the science of travel through air, (Katherine Johnson), analytical geometry, teaching, and math research (Wild). Her very accurate calculations made multiple space missions successful. Katherine Johnson is an influential mathematician due to her contributions to the development of space travel, and her ability to persevere through the difficulties she faced.Katherine Johnson’s life before her work with NACA, now NASA, was spent learning, and spending time with her family. Katherine Coleman was born in White Sulphur Springs, WV, on August 26, 1918. Her family consisted of her mother, Joylette, her father, Joshua, and her three siblings.
Coleman’s father worked various jobs including being a lumberman, handyman, farmer, and working at a hotel. Her mother worked as a teacher. Because there were not any high schools where they lived, when Katherine was 10 the Colemans moved to Institute, West Virginia to allow the children to attend high school and college (Katherine Johnson).
At age 14, Katherine Coleman graduated high school and started working towards her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) at West Virginia State College. Here she majored in French and Math, taking every math class offered. One professor took Coleman under his wing and encouraged her to pursue math research (Wild). After graduating, Coleman became a teacher. She eventually stopped teaching to get married to James Gobble and start a family (Katherine Johnson). Katherine Gobble then learned that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was looking to hire African-American women to act as “computers.
” Gobble applied and was offered the job and a teaching job the year after. Katherine worked at NACA from 1953 to 1986. Currently, Katherine is married to Jim Johnson.
At NASA she contributed to the moon landing, and other missions, and was seen as a leader (Wild). Although Katherine Johnson studied different subjects, and topics within math, including analytic geometry, math research, physics, and teaching. Johnson had various jobs, but her main focus was aeronautics. Johnson’s most notable area of development was aeronautics when working with NASA (Wild). Her trajectory, back up plan, and launch window calculations were used for flights within Project Mercury. The specific flights she calculated for included Apollo 11, and missions of John Glenn (Friendship 7) and Alan Shepard (Freedom 7).
Johnson also started working on calculations for a mission to Mars (Katherine Johnson). Project Mercury was the world’s first set of space-travel missions that included a human going into space, the project was made up of six flights with the intent to complete a specific agenda for the whole project. These objectives were as states: ” To orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth. To investigate man’s ability to function in space. To recover both man and spacecraft safely.” (Loff) Katherine Johnson’s aid to the success of flights in Project Mercury, directly led to one of the world’s biggest breakthroughs in space travel, but also in science (Loff). Her calculations for those flights haven’t changed, and their accuracy is shown in the success of the missions.
Johnson’s ability and leadership is incredible because of how many fewer opportunities she was given due to her skin color and gender. Outside of Katherine Johnson’s main course of study, aeronautics, she worked with analytical geometry, and mathematical research. Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor was one of Johnson’s professors that took her under his wing. Professor Claytor encouraged Johnson to pursue a career in mathematical research, and made a course for her in analytical geometry.
This is what inspired her to apply for the job at NASA (Wild). Overall, Katherine Johnson’s contributions to the development of space travel, and perseverance through the difficulties she faced accounts to just how influential she is. Not only is Johnson influential to people in science, and mathematics, but she is very inspirational to anyone that has experienced discrimination in their life.
Katherine Johnson was a child prodigy, attending high school at 10, and college at 14 (where she got her B.S. in math and french).
After graduating with high marks from college, Johnson pursued teaching but eventually took a job at NASA to act as a human “computer.” At NASA, Johnson completed calculations for many successful space missions, including the first man-in-space flight. Her success was recognized by receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility being created in her honor, and the book Hidden Figures being written and published (Britannica). There are many lessons that can be learned from Katherine Johnson, but one big takeaway and quote from Katherine Johnson that sums it up well is as follows: “I don’t have a feeling of inferiority.
Never had. I’m as good as anybody, but no better.” (Katherine Johnson Quotes). Overall, this quote, and Katherine Johnson herself, speak to today’s purpose of the feminist movement, that women and men are equal and should be treated equally.
Works Cited:”Katherine G. Johnson.” Katherine G. Johnson | The HistoryMakers, www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/katherine-g-johnson-42.”Katherine Johnson.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Jan.
2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katherine_Johnson#Early_life Wild, Flint. “Katherine Johnson: A Lifetime of STEM.” NASA, NASA, 16 Nov. 2015, www.
nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/a-lifetime-of-stem.html.”Katherine Johnson.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Jan.
2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katherine_Johnson.Loff, Sarah. “About Project Mercury.” NASA, NASA, 6 Apr.
2015, www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mercury/missions/program-toc.html.The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Katherine Johnson.
” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 Oct. 2017, www.britannica.com/biography/Katherine-Johnson-mathematician.”Katherine Johnson Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/katherine_johnson_815485.