Agnes Scott College

Katherine Johnson


August 26, 1918 - February 24, 2020

Katherine Coleman Johnson was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in 1918. At the age of 18, she received her degree in mathematics and French from West Virginia State College, graduating summa cum laude. Johnson briefly attended graduate school in mathematics at West Virginia State University before returning to teaching. Then in 1953 she went to work as a "computer" for the agency that would soon become known as NASA, remaining there until her retirement as an aerospace technologist in 1986. She made fundamental contributions to the United States space program, including celestial navigation calculations for the missions of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, the Apollo 11 flight to the moon, and the Apollo 13 lunar flight that returned safely home after having to be aborted. In 2015 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, and in 2016 NASA dedicated the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. In 2018, her alma mater, West Virginia State University, honored Katherine Johnson with a bronze statue and a scholarship in her name for students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Hidden Figures, a movie about Katherine Johnson and her African-American colleagues at NASA, was released in late 2016.

My Remarkable Journey: A Memoir by Katherine Johnson and her daughters, Joylette Hylick and Katherine Moore, was published in May, 2021.

More information about Katherine Johnson and her contributions at NASA can be found in the references below.


  1. Edmonds, Ranthon and Omayra Ortega. "Perseverance and Representation: A Memorial for Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson (1918–2020)"", Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 68, No. 3 (March 2021), 379-386
  2. Fox, Margalit. "Katherine Johnson Dies at 101; Mathematician Broke Barriers at NASA", Obituary, New York Times, February 24, 2020.
  3. Houston, Johnny. "The Life and Pioneering Contributions of an African American Centenarian: Mathematician Katherine G. Johnson," Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 66, No. 3 (March 2019), 324-329.
  4. Katherine Johnson, Wikipedia entry
  5. Katherine Johnson: The Girl Who Loved to Count, NASA, November 24, 2015
  6. Katherine Johnson Biography, NASA.
  7. Katherine Johnson, National Visionary, National Visionary Leadership Project
  8. Numerous videos at YouTube
  9. Lee Shetterly, Margot, "Katherine Johnson Biography," NASA website on From Hidden to Modern Figures.
  10. Lee Shetterly, Margot. Hidden figures : the American dream and the untold story of the Black women mathematicians who helped win the space race, William Morrow, New York, 2016.
  11. Biography at the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive