Katherine Johnson, the 100-year-old math genius portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures, has a second NASA facility named in her honor. Last Friday (Feb. 22), NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation Facility in Fairmont, West Va. officially became the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility.
“I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.”
The West Virginia native graduated summa cu laude from of West Virginia State College in 1937. Johnson earned degrees in mathematics and french, but initially took a job as a teacher because employment opportunities were slim in STEM fields.
After enrolling in a graduate program West Virginia University (she was one of the first black students to attend the previously segregated school), Johnson joined the NASA family in the early 1950s. She worked as a “human computer” for the agency, analyzing data for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
NACA dissolved in 1958, and Johnson went on to work as an aerospace technologists for NASA where she calculated the trajectory and launch windows for space missions, including the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon in 1969.
In 2017, NASA named a research facility after Johnson.