Technology & Science

Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician portrayed in 'Hidden Figures,' has died

NASA says Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who worked on NASA's early space missions and was portrayed in the film "Hidden Figures," about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died.

Johnson, 101, calculated rocket trajectories, earth orbits by hand for early space missions

In this Feb. 26, 2017, file photo, Katherine Johnson, the inspiration for the film, "Hidden Figures," poses in the press room at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Johnson, a mathematician on early space missions who was portrayed in film "Hidden Figures," about pioneering black female aerospace workers, died Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/Associated Press)

NASA says Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who worked on NASA's early space missions and was portrayed in the film Hidden Figures, about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died.

In a Monday morning tweet, the space agency said it celebrates her 101 years of life and her legacy of excellence and breaking down racial and social barriers.

Johnson was one of the so-called "computers" who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits by hand during NASA's early years.

Until 1958, Johnson and other black women worked in a racially segregated computing unit at what is now called Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Their work was the focus of the Oscar-nominated 2016 film.

In 1961, Johnson worked on the first mission to carry an American into space. In 1962, she verified computer calculations that plotted John Glenn's earth orbits.

At age 97, Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honour.

US President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to NASA mathematician and physicist Katherine Johnson at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 24, 2015. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

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