April 2014 Mile-High MaidenTM
A Mathematical Maiden of the First Order
On February 20, 1962, John Glenn was about to blast into space aboard Mercury's Friendship 7 capsule to become the first American to orbit the Earth. But there was a delay because he’d made an unusual request. Though the “computers” had made all the necessary computations, Glenn wasn't satisfied. He wanted a confirmation of the computer’s accuracy, and he insisted that our April Mile-High Maiden check the numbers herself. She complied and confirmed. He went on to a three-orbit adventure, which over the course of almost five hours had him experiencing speeds of better than 17,000 mph.
Known to many as the “human computer,” she went on to perform more crucial mathematical magic for numerous NASA missions. But it was the work on Apollo 11’s course to the moon, which had to be correct--and flown--to within a single degree, that caused her the most angst. She recalls thinking: “Boy, I hope we got that right.”
Well, she did get it right, and the rest, as they say, is history. Please join us in congratulating April’s MHM:
Katherine G. Johnson
We salute you Katherine G. Johnson! Rule-breaker, mathematician extraordinaire, and, most important of all, a Great American.
For a fascinating recent interview click on the picture. For a more detailed interview from 2011, check out this 28-minute YouTube video.
From YouTube: “Katherine Johnson worked at NASA Langley in Hampton during the 1950's—a woman and an African-American who broke through barriers and made history along the way.”
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