Geek Of The Week: Katherine Johnson

Geek Of The Week: Katherine Johnson

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson is an African-American physicist and mathematician who made contributions to the United States’ aeronautics and space programs with the early application of digital electronic computers at NASA. Known for accuracy in computerized celestial navigation, she conducted technical work at NASA that spanned decades. During this time, she calculated the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for many flights from Project Mercury, including the early NASA missions of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon, through the Space Shuttle program. Her calculations were critical to the success of these missions. Johnson also did calculations for plans for a mission to Mars.

In 2015, Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. There is a relatively new movie about 3 African-American Women (Katherine Goble (Johnson), Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughn) that were critical to the Space Race, called Hidden Figures. It is available for streaming on-demand..or for purchase. See this movie. It is really excellent…and is really geeky space stuff…not to mention FORTRAN…oh yeah!

About the Author

avatar MIKE: A geek who currently works as a Biologist and has an extensive science background. He is an avid user of HPC systems used for scientific research in the Washington DC area. Mike's working knowledge of using computers to solve problems brings a unique viewpoint to the podcast.