Katherine Johnson, NASA math genius and 'Hidden Figures' hero, has passed away at age 101

Today the world says goodbye to a legend. Katherine Johnson, whose invaluable work for the U.S. space program earned her countless awards, and whose profound success in the face of both sexism and racial segregation resulted in a feature film about her contributions, has passed away at age 101.


Prior to the 2016 film, Hidden Figures, most of us had no idea who Katherine Johnson was, despite the fact that she was responsible for many of NASA's early space flight calculations in the era before computers. Johnson was a "human computer," and a brilliant one at that.

In fact, she was so brilliant that when the first actual computers were used to determine the trajectory of the Friendship 7 mission, astronaut John Glenn insisted that NASA "get the girl" to double check the computer's calculations by hand. "If she says they're good, then I'm ready to go," Katherine Johnson recalled Glenn saying.

However, as a black woman in the 1950s and 60s, Johnson faced racial and gender discrimination both in society in general and in her chosen field. The infamous "bathroom speech" delivered by Taraji P. Henson as Johnson in Hidden Figures offered the world a taste of what the mathematician was up against.

www.youtube.com

Johnson worked for 33 years for the NASA Langley Research Center. In 2015, at age 97, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor. In 2018, NASA renamed its Independent Verification and Validation Facility (IV&V) in West Virginia to the Katherine Johnson IV&V Facility.

A trailblazer in more ways than one, Katherine Johnson will be greatly missed.

"Our NASA family is sad to learn the news that Katherine Johnson passed away this morning at 101 years old," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine posted to Twitter. "She was an American hero and her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten."

NASA also released a statement praising Johnson's legacy and her contribution to "raising the bar of human potential":

"NASA is deeply saddened by the loss of a leader from our pioneering days, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Johnson. Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space. Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars. Her Presidential Medal of Freedom was a well-deserved recognition.

"At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her. We will continue building on her legacy and work tirelessly to increase opportunities for everyone who has something to contribute toward the ongoing work of raising the bar of human potential."
Photo: Canva

We're nearly a year into the pandemic, and what a year it has been. We've gone through the struggles of shutdowns, the trauma of mass death, the seemingly fleeting "We're all in this together" phase, the mind-boggling denial and deluge of misinformation, the constantly frustrating uncertainty, and the ongoing question of when we're going to get to resume some sense of normalcy.

It's been a lot. It's been emotionally and mentally exhausting. And at this point, many of us have hit a wall of pandemic fatigue that's hard to describe. We're just done with all of it, but we know we still have to keep going.

Poet Donna Ashworth has put this "done" feeling into words that are resonating with so many of us. While it seems like we should want to talk to people we love more than ever right now, we've sort of lost the will to socialize pandemically. We're tired of Zoom calls. Getting together masked and socially distanced is doable—we've been doing it—but it sucks. In the wintry north (and recently south) the weather is too crappy to get together outside. So many of us have just gone quiet.

If that sounds like you, you're not alone. As Ashworth wrote:

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less
via Walt Disney Television / Flickr and jilhervas / Flickr

There comes a moment in everyone's social media life when they get stressed because they've been followed by an authority figure. When your boss, mother, or priest starts following you, social media immediately becomes a lot less fun.

When that happens, it's time to stop posting photos of yourself partying it up with an adult beverage. You gotta hold back on some of your saltier takes, and you have to start minding your language. Also, you have to be very careful about the posts you're tagged in.

Model, TV personality, and author Chrissy Teigen has been suffering through a mega-dose of this form of social media stress since January 20 when President Joe Biden followed her on Twitter. His follow came after Teigen made the request.

Keep Reading Show less