For decades, the contributions of the black, female mathematicians who helped get NASA astronauts into space stayed essentially hidden.
Not anymore. Now, you’ll be reminded of what the women did even before you pull into NASA headquarters.
That’s because the street on which the building sits has been renamed Hidden Figures Way.
The new name honors the work of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, the so-called “human computers” who did the complex calculations that made space travel possible.
In the 1950s, before computers were widely used and trusted, human mathematicians were called “computers.” And NASA’s “computer pool” relied heavily on the extraordinarily complex, handwritten calculations of its black women employees.
Any little error could spell disaster. But Johnson and the computer pool made calculations for groundbreaking, successful space missions, including Alan Shepard’s 1961 voyage — which made him the first American in space — and John Glenn’s 1962 mission, which made him the first American to orbit Earth.
The world didn’t fully learn of this incredible story until 2016, when the best-selling book and popular movie “Hidden Figures” were released.