Katherine Johnson (Photo: NASA)

 

She brought the 2017 Oscar audience to their feet in a standing ovation when she arrived onstage to to wave and thank the audience, at age 98, with actresses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe who told her story and that of her fellow NASA mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson

For Black History Month, Fierce recognizes Katherine C. Johnson, retired NASA mathematician and space science pioneer who began her career at Langley Research Center in 1953, after learning that the agency was looking for African-American women to work as “human computers.”  In her now legendary story, in 1958, she joined NASA’s Space Task Force and calculated the flight trajectory for Alan Shepard — the first American to go into space — in 1959. Click here to listen to Johnson tell the story of how she built her groundbreaking career.