I've been traveling and staying in a hotel the last few days because of weather issues and with luck I'll be getting home today. Due to this, I've been able to watch television and see all the ads for movies. I stumbled across one that I hope to see once its out on DVD.
The movie about three African American females who worked for NASA back in the early 60's, helping with the space program. Imagine, three women helped in their own way to get John Glenn and others to the moon in 1969.
One is Katherine Johnson who was a trained mathematician. At this time in history, she had to fight hard to get anywhere due to the societal beliefs. She was born in West Virginia back in 1918 and obtained a degree in Mathematics in 1937 but it wasn't until 1953, she was hired by NASA. Her first job was to help analyze data in the Flight Research Division.
She worked on other projects such as the Friendship 7 mission so when John Glenn was due to go up on the Apollo mission, he demanded she check all the numbers because he didn't trust the computers. When she said ok, he went. She was known for her mathematical skills. She retired from NASA in 1986.
Mary Jackson is the second one who was born in 1921, received a degree in Mathematics in 1942 and was hired by NASA in 1951. She ended up working with an engineer in the wind tunnels section. He encouraged her to become an engineer. She managed it even though she needed permission to attend the all white classes but when she graduated she became the first African American Engineer at NASA. She retired in 1985.
The third woman was Dorthy Vaughn who was born in 1910. She obtained her degree in Mathematics in 1929. She joined the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1943, during the war. She became part of the computing pool, the people who performed the mathematical calculations needed to process data. Unfortunately, due to her ethnicity, she was assigned to the West Computing Area due to laws of segregation.
In 1949, she was promoted to head the group and was the first African American woman in that position. She made many contributions and when the company became NASA, integration occurred and she joined the computation division. She retired in 1971.
After seeing the ads for this movie, I realized there were very few female mathematicians I'd heard about and most of them were scattered through history. This opened my eyes to the fact there are more women out there hidden in the mists who made huge contributions but were virtually unrecognized.
I think when the new semester starts, I am going to find and create posters of female mathematicians so my girls can see others who made huge contributions. Let me know what you think. I also plan to order the