2015 Pioneer in Tech Award Recipients Katherine Johnson and Dr. Christine Darden

Katherine Johnson PhotoAs a NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson’s calculations include the trajectory for the space flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space; John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth; and Apollo 11, the first human mission to the moon. Born in 1918, Katherine displayed an early love for numbers: “They tell me I counted everything,” said Katherine. She began her studies at West Virginia State University at the age of 15, where distinguished Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor recognized her impressive aptitude and encouraged her to take the necessary courses that would lead to a career as a research mathematician. Katherine would go on to earn her graduate degree. In 1953, she began working as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that became NASA. Katherine’s computations impacted the history of U.S. space exploration. 

Christine Darden PhotoChristine Mann Darden is a native of Monroe, North Carolina. She has a BS in Mathematics from Hampton Institute (now University) in Hampton, Virginia, an MS in Applied Mathematics from Virginia State College (now University) in Petersburg, Virginia, and a DSc in Mechanical Engineering from George Washington University in Washington, DC. Darden also holds a Certificate of Advanced Study in Management from Simmons College Graduate School of Management in Boston. Darden worked at NASA for nearly 40 years before retiring in 2007. Prior to NASA, Darden taught math at the college and high school levels. While at NASA, Darden authored more than 57 technical papers and articles, primarily in the areas of sonic boom prediction, sonic boom minimization, and supersonic wing design. Her awards include two NASA Medals, the Black Engineer of the Year, and Outstanding Achievement in Government Award, and the Women in Science & Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.

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