Katherine Johnson Wiki – Biography
Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson was an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights.
Katherine Johnson Age
She was 101 years old.
Early life and Career
Katherine Johnson (née Katherine Coleman) was born on August 26, 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, to Joylette and Joshua Coleman. She was the youngest of four children. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a lumberman, farmer, handyman, and worked at the Greenbrier Hotel.
Johnson showed strong mathematical abilities from an early age. Because Greenbrier County did not offer public schooling for African-American students past the eighth grade, the Colemans arranged for their children to attend high school in Institute, West Virginia. This school was on the campus of West Virginia State College (WVSC, now West Virginia State University). Johnson was enrolled when she was only ten years old. The family split their time between Institute during the school year and White Sulphur Springs in the summer.
After graduating from high school at 14, Johnson entered West Virginia State, a historically black college. As a student, she took every math course offered by the college. Multiple professors mentored her, including the chemist and mathematician, Angie Turner King, who also had mentored Johnson throughout high school, and W. W. Schieffelin Claytor, the third African-American to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics. Claytor added new mathematics courses just for Katherine. She was graduated summa cum laude in 1937, with degrees in mathematics and French, at age 18. She took on a teaching job at a black public school in Marion, Virginia.
In 1939, after marrying her first husband, James Goble, Johnson left her teaching job and enrolled in a graduate math program. She quit after one year, after becoming pregnant and choosing to focus on her family. At the time of her entry, she was the first African-American woman to attend graduate school at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. Through WVSC’s president, Dr. John W. Davis, she became one of three African-American students, and the only woman, selected to integrate the graduate school after the United States Supreme Court ruling Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938). The court had ruled that states that provided public higher education to white students also had to provide it to black students, to be satisfied either by establishing black colleges and universities or by admitting black students to previously white-only universities.
Johnson decided on a career as a research mathematician, although this was a difficult field for African Americans and women to enter. The first jobs she found were in teaching. At a family gathering in 1952 a relative mentioned that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was hiring mathematicians. At the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, based in Hampton, Virginia, near Langley Field, NACA hired African-American mathematicians as well as whites for their Guidance and Navigation Department. Johnson accepted a job offer from the agency in 1953.
Katherine Johnson, the former NASA mathematician depicted in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures” about black women who helped pave the way for astronauts to reach the moon, died Monday, the space agency announced. She was 101.
Johnson and her first husband, James Francis Goble, who died of a brain tumor in 1956, had three daughters. In 1959, she married US Army Lt. Col. James Johnson, a veteran of the Korean War.