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R.I.P.: Katherine Johnson, Trailblazing Mathematician Depicted in “Hidden Figures,” Dies at 101

We are sad to report that Katherine Johnson, one of the history-making mathematicians immortalized in the Oscar-Nominated film Hidden Figures, has passed away today (Feb. 24) at the age of 101.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed the news on Twitter.

Johnson was known as one of NASA’s “human computers” who worked on complex space missions in the 1950s. Her most notable accomplishments included planning out the trajectories for Alan Shepard’s history-making space trip and giving the go-ahead for John Glenn’s trip into orbit.

Her contributions were detailed in the publishing of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, Hidden Figures:  The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race, published in 2016. The book was adapted into a hit movie that same year, with Taraji P. Henson playing Johnson. That film was nominated for three Oscars and two Golden Globes, and it won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

Johnson was honored with both the Presidential Metal of Freedon (2015) and the Congressional Gold Medal (2019). In addition, NASA renamed the Independent Verification and Validation Facility in her honor in 2017. In an interview with WAVY-TV last March, Johnson offered this piece of advice: “Do your best at all times. That’s the best you can do.”

With Johnson’s passing, that leaves Dr. Christine Darden, 77, as the last “Hidden Figure” that is still alive today.

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