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International Day of Women and Girls In Science: Katherine Johnson

Feb 11, 2021 08:00AM ● By Kassidy Garland

Katherine Coleman was born on August 26, 1918, in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Her intelligence, as well as her interest and talent for mathematics, were noticed at a very young age. By the time Miss Coleman turned 10 years old, she began attending high school and graduated at age 14. She then attended West Virginia State College, graduated with degrees in Mathematics and French, and earned the highest honors.

She began teaching but eventually was chosen along with only two other African Americans to enroll in the graduate program at West Virginia University. However, Miss Coleman soon left the program to become Mrs. Katherine Goble and to begin a family.

In the summer of 1953, after moving closer to Langley, Katherine Goble began her career with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics West Area Computing unit. The group was composed of entirely African American women who manually performed complex mathematical equations, as NACA was still segregated. The change came when NACA became NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and segregation was banned.

After 3 years at NACA, James Goble passed away due to cancer, widowing Mrs. Goble, and making her a single mother. Although it was difficult, she continued her work. Three years after her husband’s passing, she married Jim Johnson, and became Mrs. Katherine Johnson.


During her time at NASA, Johnson was a member of the Space Task Group. She helped get Alan Shepard and the Freedom 7 into space. One year later, John Glenn, who was not yet ready to entirely trust computers, said “get the girl”, and Katherine Johnson made sure all computations were correct before he would continue with his Friendship 7 mission. With Mrs. Johnson’s help, Glenn became the first man to orbit the Earth. She continued her work with NASA until 1986 when she retired.


Throughout her 30-year career, Katherine Johnson co-authored 26 research papers. Her work allowed for significant advancements in science, math, and space travel. In 2015, Katherine Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States of America, by President Barack Obama. In 2016, Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monet, and Octavia Spencer,  chronicled the achievements of Black women at NASA during the 50s and 60s. 

Katherine Johnson passed away on February 24th, 2020. NASA Administrator James Bridenstine released a statement after her passing, "Our NASA family is sad to learn the news that Katherine Johnson passed away this morning at 101 years old. She was an American hero and her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten."



 Kassidy Garland has had a great appreciation for reading and writing since she was young. She graduated from West Chester University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English & Women and Gender Studies. With a concentration in creative writing, Kassidy has 5 years of experience writing blogs, articles, and for social media. Based out of Philadelphia, Kassidy loves to write about a number of topics and looks forward to sharing her passion with those at FunTimes Magazine.