Katherine Johnson has been called a “human computer,” one of a group of pioneering African-American women lauded in 2017’s “Hidden Figures,” a film enjoying Academy Award buzz as the February 26th ceremony approaches. Among other significant accomplishments during a 33-year career with NASA, Johnson’s brilliantly mathematical mind helped send John Glenn into orbit and bring him safely back home from his first flight. “If she says [the calculations are] good,’” Johnson remembers the famous astronaut saying, “then I’m ready to go.”
But all this recent hubbub doesn’t fluster the 98-year-old Johnson. Though humble, she’s rather used to receiving praise for her incredible work. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her achievements in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.