Today, NASA launched a feature on its front page in memory of Catherine Johnson, a black-american mathematician who made history. The legendary woman, who has made great contributions to the exploration of space, has quietly completed her extraordinary life today at the age of 101.
Sina Technology Zheng Jun from Silicon Valley, USA
“She has helped our country expand its space borders, and her great achievements have opened the door to women and people of color in humanity’s desire to explore space,” NASA Director Jim Bridenstein said in a statement. She is an American hero. “Back in 2016, NASA named her a new computing center.
From 1953 to 1986, Catherine was NASA’s superhuman brain computer for more than 30 years, including the pre-1958 institution. From the Project Mercury program to the Apollo program to the space shuttle program, Catherine personally calculated all of the Sky projects, playing a crucial role in the early days of the computer.
The 2017 Academy Award nominee for “Hidden Figures” is the true story of several female mathematicians, including Catherine, in the Mercury Project. On February 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to enter Earth orbit aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft, a key turning point in the U.S.-Soviet space race. As the film’s name suggests, Catherine is the hero behind this landmark mission. Catherine, 98, arrived at the Oscars in a wheelchair.
Before the film, not many people knew about the significant contributions made by female scientists such as Catherine in the history of aerospace. An interesting little detail is that Green didn’t believe the electronic computer that was born at the time, and he offered to ask Catherine to calculate the computer’s lift-off data herself. After being confirmed by Catherine herself, Green was completely relieved to take off. Catherine, an African-American woman, is seen as an authority among American astronauts.
Glenn himself died in 2016 at the age of 95. It’s worth noting that in 1998, at the age of 77, Glenn returned to space aboard the Discovery spacecraft, becoming the oldest astronaut to date. Clint Eastwood’s self-directed 2000 film “Space Cowboy” was meant to pay tribute to Glenn.
As NASA’s message says, Catherine’s achievement sits not only for women, but also for African-Americans. Her legendary life is a personal history of constant struggle with sexism and racial discrimination.
Catherine was born on August 26, 1918, in a small town in West Virginia. She is the youngest of the family’s four children, a farmer and carpenter, and a teacher. Coincidentally, two years later, on August 26, 1920, the U.S. Constitution formally passed the 19th Amendment, giving women equal voting rights. And that day was later designated as Women’s Equality Day in the United States.
Despite being born cold door, Catherine showed off her talent early on. As a result of the constant jumping, she finished eighth grade at the age of 10 (equivalent to a Chinese junior high school graduation). Because of segregation, blacks in West Virginia were allowed to attend public schools until eighth grade. Fortunately, with the support of her parents, 10-year-old Catherine went to a big city more than 200 kilometers away and finished high school at West Virginia State University’s affiliated high school. After graduating from high school at the age of 14, Catherine went to West Virginia State University, a black-and-black university under apartheid.
Since she had finished all her math classes early, the tutors had to give her extra math lessons. In 1937, at the age of 18, Catherine graduated from college with the best grades, earned a bachelor’s degree in math and French, and later became a teacher at a black school. In 1938, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state college restrictions on black admissions, and the University of West Virginia began enrolling black students. Catherine thus became the first African-American female master’s degree.
In 1953, Catherine, who had three children, joined the National Space Advisory Council (NACA), NASA’s predecessor, as a calculating officer at the Langley Research Center. Before the invention of electronic computers, a large amount of data in space aviation needed to be done and checked manually, and miscalculation of data could mean the destruction of aircraft. This unusually cumbersome and crucial job is called Computer, and the advent of computers has changed the meaning of the word Computer.
In the 1950s, African-American women were subjected to double discrimination in the workplace. Catherine and other black sons were integrated into the West District Computing Center, where they were separated from whites from the office to the bathroom to the dining room. As a woman, she can’t meet with white male engineers.
But Catherine, with her extraordinary mathematical talent and rigorous work ethic, gradually won the respect of white male engineers. With the support of her brave challenge and other male engineers, Catherine finally made a breakthrough of zero and made it to the most elite space flight research group. In 1960, Catherine became the first woman to sign the space flight research group’s report. During her long 30-year career, Catherine has written 26 research papers.
In 1961, American astronaut Shepard became the first American to go into space, and the course of his spacecraft was calculated by Catherine herself. In 1962, astronaut Glenn did not believe the calculations of NASA’s computers, and ordered That Catherine would not take to the skies until she recalculated the confirmed results. “Let the lady recalculate the formula.” If she nods, I’ll lift up.” Glenn asked the engineers.
In 1969, astronaut Armstrong became the first human to land on the moon, and the time frame for the Apollo 13 launch was Catherine’s calculation. “Even if a small mistake is made, the spacecraft will miss orbit and will never be able to return to Earth.” Catherine sat in front of the TV watching the moon landing, silently praying that she must not make a mistake. And she didn’t fail to live up to the trust of the astronauts.
After retiring from NASA in 1986, Catherine and her family continued to live in Virginia, and her grandchildren entered the space industry. Since the 1990s, Catherine’s contributions have only begun to gain media coverage and become known to the public. In 1999 she became the Most Distinguished Alumni of the Year at West Virginia State University. In 2018, the school created a life-size bronze statue of Catherine and a prize in her name to honor the school’s most prominent female graduate.
In 2015, Kathleen was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, the highest honor ever awarded to the American public. “Catherine Johnson’s refusal to be limited by society’s expectations of gender and color at the time opened up the boundaries of humanity,” Obama said. “