Dr. Katherine Goble Johnson

Dr. Katherine Goble Johnson was born in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, where she received segregated education. Where she was born, Black children were not allowed to get educated past 8th grade, so her family moved 125 miles away. Due to her family’s support and interest in numbers, she skipped multiple grades and attended and completed high school at the HBCU West Virginia State University (formerly West Virginia State College, and formerly West Virginia Colored Institute) at the age of 14. She received her BS (1937) summa cum laude in Mathematics and French from West Virginia State College. She was selected as one of three Black students to integrate West Virginia University (WVU) for her graduate studies in Mathematics, but she left early to start her family. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters in 2016 from West Virginia University due to her excellence in mathematics, and distinguished work, leadership, and service.

She taught high school for 20 years before she accepted a position analyzing data from flight tests at a NASA precursor. She would soon make history by calculating space-flight trajectories for Project Mercury and then for Alan Shephard, the first American in space. She also verified computer calculations that would control the flight path of future Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth. After these accomplishments she continued providing calculations for the development of the Landsat satellite and authored 26 papers. After over 30 years at Langley, Dr. Johnson retired in 1986. President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. NASA would then go on to name the “Katherine Johnson Computational Research Building” in her honor. She passed away in 2020 at the incredible age of 101.


  1. https://www.nasa.gov/centers-and-facilities/langley/katherine-johnson-biography/
  2. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/johnson-katherine-g-1918/ 
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/24/science/katherine-johnson-dead.html
  4. https://www.katherinejohnsonfoundation.org/biography/
  5. https://honorarydegrees.wvu.edu/past-recipients/2000s/2016/katherine-g-johnson