Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA mathematicians portrayed in the film Hidden Figures, died Monday. She was 101.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine shared the news of Johnson’s passing in a Monday morning tweet.
“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,” Bridenstine said. “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.”
The @NASA family will never forget Katherine Johnson's courage and the milestones we could not have reached without her. Her story and her grace continue to inspire the world. https://t.co/UPOqo0sLfb pic.twitter.com/xwnRX9oZoi
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) February 24, 2020
Johnson began working at the space agency in 1953 in Langley, Virginia. She calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, who was the first American in space before computers were used.
Taraji P. Henson portrayed Johnson in the critically acclaimed 2016 film Hidden Figures, which told the stories of black women who played key roles at NASA during the Space Race.
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The drama also starred Octavia Spencer as mathematician Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as engineer Mary Jackson.
It won the outstanding cast in a motion picture Screen Actors Guild award, and was nominated for three Oscars. The Twentieth Century Fox release was also hugely popular with moviegoers and made $236 million worldwide.