Katherine Johnson, a remarkable figure in the field of mathematics and space science, is renowned for her role at NASA during the Space Race. Her academic journey started at West Virginia State College, a historically black college that offered her the chance to excel in her passion.
The Early Life and Education of Katherine Johnson
Born on August 26, 1918, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Katherine was a gifted student with a keen interest in mathematics. She graduated high school at the age of 14 and immediately began her studies at West Virginia State College. This institution played a critical role in shaping her skills and preparing her for the accomplishments she would later achieve.
West Virginia State College: Katherine Johnson’s Alma Mater
At West Virginia State College, Katherine pursued mathematics and French, graduating summa cum laude in 1937. The college was instrumental in fostering her skills, and it’s here that she encountered mentors who recognized her talents. One of her mentors, Dr. William W. Schieffelin Claytor, the third African American to earn a PhD in Mathematics, even designed a course especially for her.
Katherine Johnson’s Pioneering Career at NASA
Upon graduation, Katherine began teaching at a public school before starting her career at NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), in 1953. Her remarkable ability to manually calculate complex mathematical equations contributed significantly to the success of several pivotal space missions, earning her a distinguished place in history.
Honoring Katherine Johnson’s Legacy
The world continues to honor Katherine Johnson’s contributions to science and her courage in overcoming racial and gender barriers. West Virginia State College, now West Virginia State University, named a scholarship program after her to inspire and support future mathematicians.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- When did Katherine Johnson graduate college? Katherine Johnson graduated from West Virginia State College in 1937.
- What did Katherine Johnson study in college? Katherine Johnson majored in Mathematics and French during her time at West Virginia State College.
- What contributions did Katherine Johnson make to NASA? Katherine Johnson played a significant role in calculating the trajectory for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. She also co-authored 26 scientific papers published by NASA.
- How is West Virginia State University honoring Katherine Johnson’s legacy? West Virginia State University has established a scholarship program in Katherine Johnson’s name to inspire and support future mathematicians.
- Did Katherine Johnson receive any awards for her work? Yes, Katherine Johnson received several awards throughout her career, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.