I suppose that I really should now tell you the names of these three unsung heros ... Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, all of whom were brilliant Afro-American mathematicians. Really, it is shameful that their contribution has mainly been consigned to the history books.
My goodness, these were brave young women. Bear in mind that we are talking here about the late 1950's/early 1960's, and these ladies were fighting on two fronts : a) they were women and b) they were black. With all the slights they had to put up with, it would have been all too easy for them to give up, but they kept on trying to break down all the barriers that stood before them.
That's why I feel they are so deserving to be featured in my Posts, celebrating International Women's Day.
Their meticulous calculations helped America to catch up in the space race that was going on at that time between Russia and the USA. There is a scene in the film, whereby the Astronaut, John Glenn, insists that Katherine Johnson herself should be the one to check the complex trajectory calculations made by the computer. He refused to let the launch of Friendship 7 (in 1962) go ahead without those checks being done. That's how trusted Katherine's mind was.
Dorothy Vaughan paved the way for minorities, as she finally became NASA's first ever Afro-American Manager.
Mary Jackson, again after a long hard battle, became NASA's first black Engineer. The three of them worked closely together to support each other and to achieve their aims.
I really do recommend that you see the film, which is, just like the women themselves, truly inspirational. I am delighted that their stories have finally been told.
As a footnote, NASA's new Computer Research Laboratory (opened just last year) has been named the Katherine G Johnson Computational Research Facility. How wonderful that Katherine herself was able to attend the Opening, at the age of 97! She had worked at the Langley Research Centre from 1953 - 1986, and even in her retirement, was a staunch advocate for science, technology, engineering and math education.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about these ladies, as much as I have enjoyed researching them. Enjoy the week ahead everyone.