NASA renames street for 'hidden' black women mathematicians

Katherine Johnson, seen here receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, provided pivotal contributions to Am
Katherine Johnson, seen here receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, provided pivotal contributions to American space flight research alongside Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson

NASA has renamed the street outside its Washington headquarters to honor three black female mathematicians whose pioneering work on the agency's early space program was chronicled in the film "Hidden Figures".

Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson provided pivotal contributions to space flight research from the 1940s through to the 1960s, when the United States first sent men to orbit and then walk on the Moon.

Despite their achievements, all three had to confront the racial segregation of the era.

They were among dozens of African-Americans, both male and female, who worked as mathematicians and physicists for the US space program, even as they were forced to use separate bathrooms from whites, and were barred from the same restaurants and schools frequented by whites.

The trio's work was largely forgotten until they were profiled in the book "Hidden Figures" decades later by author Margot Lee Shetterly, later adapted into the 2016 blockbuster of the same name.

Shetterly said the decision to ordain Hidden Figures Way honored "the contributions of unseen individuals who were there at the beginning of the story, and whose persistence and courage have delivered us to where we are today."

"These female mathematicians were doing the heavy lifting in aeronautical research and many, many other fields long before those chunks of electronic circuitry became the defining feature of our life and work," she said at a Wednesday ceremony outside NASA.

The trio's work was largely forgotten until they were profiled in the book 'Hidden Figures' decades later by author Margot Lee S
The trio's work was largely forgotten until they were profiled in the book 'Hidden Figures' decades later by author Margot Lee Shetterly

In 2015 US President Barack Obama gave Johnson, who is now 100, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

Jackson and Vaughan died in 2005 and 2008 respectively.

NASA will next month celebrate the 50th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 mission and humanity's first Moon landing.

The agency last month announced its plan to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024 through its "Artemis" program—named for the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology.


Explore further

NASA's black female mathematicians hit the big screen

© 2019 AFP

Citation: NASA renames street for 'hidden' black women mathematicians (2019, June 13) retrieved 20 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-06-nasa-renames-street-hidden-black.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
38 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jun 13, 2019
Pure pandering.

Jun 13, 2019
sure pokee pure

took 'em long enough to acknowledge the important role those women played in America's space program.
which actually started back with their predecessors contribution to Allied Victory in WWII.

you & trumpenella & sillyeggjead still angry those "fine" nazis thugs screwed up so badly.
failing to murder enough people for your taste.

for crying outloud, the russians beat the crap out of your side.

the russians!

& i can see your other reason for dismay as this acknowledgement proves you racist cant is just plumb stupid.
"Here's your Sign!"

as none of you looneyticks can do simple math much less advanced calculations.

accurately.


Jun 17, 2019
Arithmetic isn't math. Tallying tables of figures men didn't have the patience for.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more