West Virginia-born NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies at age 101

Katherine Johnson, the trailblazing NASA mathematician whose life was chronicled in the 2016 Best Picture nominated film Hidden Figures, passed away Monday at age 101.

“NASA is deeply saddened by the loss of a leader from our pioneering days, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Johnson,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Monday.

“Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors form women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space,” Bridenstine said. “Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the Moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars. Her Presidential Medal of Freedom was a well-deserved recognition.”

Born on August 26, 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Johnson graduated high school at age 14 and from college at West Virginia State four years later. She would go on to become the first black woman to attend graduate school at WVU.

Her work with computers at NASA in the 1950s and 1960s during the heart of the space race forms the central story of the 2016 Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures.

“At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her,” Bridenstine said. “We will continue building on her legacy and work tirelessly to increase opportunities for everyone who has something to contribute toward the ongoing work of raising the bar of human potential.”

A statue commemorating Johnson is located on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College, between Christopher Hall of Science and the Reemsnyder Research Center.

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