NASA Renames Facility after a Hidden Figure in Black History

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According to CNN,  The Independent Verification and Validation Facility has been renamed the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in honor of Katherine Johnson, a hidden figure in African American history.

Katherine Johnson was one of the main characters portrayed in the movie Hidden Figures which was nominated as the Best Motion Picture of the Year which was based on the book by that same title by Margot Lee Shetterly. (Download a Movie Analysis and Film Review Here or the Reading Guide for the Young Readers’ Edition Here)

Katherine Johnson is the mathematician behind calculating trajectories for the shuttle launches.  She has published over 26 scientific papers and is considered a pioneer in space science and computing.

According to an oral history archived by the National Visionary Leadership Project:

At first she [Johnson] worked in a pool of women performing math calculations. Katherine has referred to the women in the pool as virtual “computers who wore skirts”. Their main job was to read the data from the black boxes of planes and carry out other precise mathematical tasks. Then one day, Katherine (and a colleague) were temporarily assigned to help the all-male flight research team. Katherine’s knowledge of analytic geometry helped make quick allies of male bosses and colleagues to the extent that, “they forgot to return me to the pool”. While the racial and gender barriers were always there, Katherine says she ignored them. Katherine was assertive, asking to be included in editorial meetings (where no women had gone before). She simply told people she had done the work and that she belonged. (Oral History Archive: Katherine Johnson”National Visionary Leadership Project. 2005. Retrieved December 29, 2016.)

Hidden Figures in African American History

220px-percy_lavon_julianA lot of students know about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X and Rosa Parks.  However, there are so many hidden figures in African American history.  One hidden figure is Percy Julian.

Percy Julian is to soybean, what George Washington Carver is to the peanut.   He made several discoveries from the soybean one of which is how we synthetically make hormones such as progesterone and testosterone.

He was one of the first African-American chemists elected to the National Academy of the Sciences, in 1973. He was elected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 1999 his synthesis of physostigmine was recognized by the American Chemical Society as “one of the top 25 achievements in the history of American chemistry” (http://www.biography.com/people/percy-julian-9359018).
Percy Julian received more than 130 chemical patents https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Lavon_Julian. n.d. 20 May 2016). However, that does not compare the number of lives he saved and health regained by countless individuals.

Julian said “I have had one goal in my life, that of playing some role in making life a little easier for the persons who come after me” (Lisa Yount).

Join us this February for Hidden Figures in African American History: A Book Study & Film Review  as we uncover other hidden figures in African and African American History while unlocking your child’s reading comprehension, writing and artistic skills.  To learn more click here.

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