On Monday morning (Feb. 24), news surfaced of famed mathematician Katherine Johnson’s passing at age 101. The pioneer in science and math was memorialized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), where she worked in 1953 before retiring in 1986.
“We’re saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson,” the statement reads. “Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers.”
We’re saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://t.co/Tl3tsHAfYB pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW
— NASA (@NASA) February 24, 2020
Throughout her tenure at NASA, Johnson worked on equations and solutions to aid in successful flight missions. It wasn’t until 1962 that her skills placed her in an upper echelon of mathematicians for her work during astronaut John Glenn’s orbital mission. The moment was depicted in a book authored by Margot Lee Shetterly titled. In 2017, a film of the same name was created and broke records for its real-life storytelling.
In an interview with The Guardian, actress Taraji P. Henson who portrayed Johnson onscreen, said upon meeting the legendary figure, she realized how much they had in common. “When I met [Johnson], the way she talked about maths, the way her eyes lit up, that’s how I feel about acting,” she said. “I understand her passion; you can replace that with anything.”
Cemented alongside her other achievements, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama in 2015.