Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician who cemented her place as one of the best to ever do it. She insisted that many things will come and go, but STEM, specifically mathematics, engineering, and science, will always play an integral part in how the world works. As we ponder on what a successful life Katherine Johnson lived, here are a few interesting facts about her that you may not have heard:
1. Katherine Johnson 101
Her colleagues at NACA “asked her for the moon,” and she gave it to them through her precise calculations. It was almost as if she had a mutual, loving relationship with nature. She died of natural causes on February 24, 2020, in a retirement home in Newport News, Virginia.
2. She Joined High School When She Was 10
Everybody knows, understands, and appreciates Katherine’s work and how she helped shape our current world, but not everyone knows about her educational struggles.
To begin with, the fact that she was from an African American family meant that she wasn’t accorded some privileges that others had at the time. However, she defied the odds by being one of the youngest students to join high school at just 10 years old.
3. Katherine Johnson Graduated with The Highest Possible Honors
Even though she grew up in a state where education for African Americans was not considered a necessity, she graduated high school at the age of 14 (which is usually the age when most people join high school).
This wasn’t a surprise, though, as being a genius, she obviously didn’t need extra tuition. She then joined West Virginia State, a historically Black college, where she graduated with the highest honors possible at 19.
Looking at her achievements, you would think she was on course for success. However, this wasn’t the case, as she struggled to juggle family and work. Her biggest career breakthrough came in 1952 when she was hired by National Advisory for Aeronautics, NACA. Her application was accepted in 1953 when she started working officially.
4. Katherine Johnson Scooped Many Awards and Had a Plethora of Achievements
It’s not every day that you see a child joining high school at 10. For Katherine, this only meant one thing; she was destined for success – and successful she became. Here are her most notable achievements and awards:
- She co-authored a report, Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position. By doing so, she became the first woman (of any race) to receive credit for such incredible work.
- She single-handedly made calculations for an astronaut to navigate to space and back in 1961. Katherine also played a huge role in Apollo’s first moon landing.
- President Barrack Obama honored Katherine with a Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 24, 2015.
- She has buildings, including at NASA and major universities, named after her.
- Katherine was a holder of the famous Silver Snoopy Award, a reward given to people who have made massive differences in the aeronautical industry.
5. From Old Age to New Age
Many seniors struggle to keep up with modern technology, especially the various social media platforms. However, for someone who made calculations for astronauts to navigate through space, handling an app over a smart device wouldn’t be hard.
Katherine Johnson had an Instagram (IG) account where she posted some of her inventions and what she was up to.
6. Katherine Johnson has a Barbie Doll.
Katherine Johnson might have passed away, but she continues to inspire women through her Barbie doll that you can purchase online. The goal is to encourage every woman and remind them of the importance of working as a team.
As a pioneer who broke free from the barriers of race, who better to help us inspire the coming generations than Katherine Johnson?