Black mathematician who worked on NASA’s Apollo 11 dies at age 101

Black mathematician who worked on NASA’s Apollo 11 dies at age 101

- Katherine Johnson whose life story was portrayed in Hidden Figures has passed at the age 101

- The brilliant woman who worked behind the scenes at NASA due to her race was the major force behind the historic landing of the 1st man on the moon in 1969

- In 2015, American president Barack Obama bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award on Katherine for her immense contribution

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Katherine Johnson, an outstanding NASA mathematician whose singular contribution made it possible for Neil Armstrong to land on the moon with Apollo 11 in 1969, died on 24 February 2020.

She was 101 years old.

According to Johnson an African-American woman, was among NASA’s largely uncelebrated pioneers because she was a woman of colour but that did not stop her from making huge contributions to humankind.

Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 by President Barack Obama for her work on the Apollo space program.

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The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal are regarded as the highest civilian awards of the United States.

For the most part, the brilliant contribution of the amazing woman was kept wraps until 2016, when Margot Lee Shetterly published the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.

Subsequently, a movie with the same title was made which told her story.

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Long before NASA developed high-tech computers that could be trusted with complicated and delicate calculations, Johnson was a human 'computer' that was relied on anytime the going got tough.

Even at times when actual computers finally came around, the answers from the various computer software had to be compared with those of Katherine Johnson to ascertain their reliability.

Meanwhile, being diagnosed with breast cancer while studying towards her PhD in education, Prof Saritha Beni did not give up.

The inspiring woman said her will to finish her PhD, along with the love for her children, motivated her to get up every morning and fight for her life.

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