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9 Facts To Celebrate Katherine Johnson's 99th Birthday

9 Facts To Celebrate Katherine Johnson's 99th Birthday

Today is pioneering NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson's 99th birthday, and in her 99 years of life she has made immeasurable contributions to our space history.

Despite enduring racial and gender barriers, Johnson's genius, determination, and love of numbers helped put men into space. She calculated historic flight trajectories for the first American to go into space, for the first American to orbit earth, as well as the flight path for the first human trip to the moon. To celebrate her birthday, here are nine facts about the trailblazing Katherine Johnson, who went on to pave the way for generations of Black women who want to pursue STEM fields. 

1. Katherine Johnson developed a love for counting at an early age. "I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did."

2. She started high school at age 10, and by 18, graduated summa cum laude with Bachelor of Science degrees in mathematics and French from West Virginia State College.

Photo credit: NASA 

3. After graduating from college, she started working as a teacher until she got married. She went back to teaching to support her family after her husband fell ill. 

Photo credit: NASA

5. At 34, she applied to work as a human computer for NACA (later known as NASA) after she heard its space program was looking to hire African American women to solve math problems. Johnson applied twice before getting hired. 

Photo credit: NASA

6. During her 33 years at NASA, Johnson worked as an aerospace technologist and was honored with several awards including the NASA Lunar Orbiter Award and three NASA Special Achievement Awards. 

Photo credit: NASA

7. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. 

8. In 2016, the NASA Langley Research Center named its Computational Research Facility building in her honor. 

9. She's one of the inspirations for the critically acclaimed film, "Hidden Figures"- an untold true story about three African American women mathematicians who were behind one of NASA's first successful space missions. Taraji P. Henson portrayed Johnson in the film, and Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe played Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.  

Photo credit: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Help us wish Ms. Katherine Johnson a very happy birthday! 

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