This past Friday, September 22, the NASA Langley Research Center’s newly-built Computational Research Facility research facility in Hampton, Virginia was dedicated to 99-year-old math genius, Katherine Johnson.
The building dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony were attended by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and students from Black Girls Code and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.
- Johnson and her family see the entrance of the new Computational Research Facility, along with NASA Langley Director David Bowles and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
NASA/ David C. Bowman
Johnson is the NASA engineer and subject of the book and Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Her contributions along with those of other NASA African-American “human computers” are chronicled in the book “Hidden Figures,” by Margot Lee Shetterly, who was also present at the ceremony as keynote speaker. When Johnson’s story came out, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by former President Barack Obama at the White House in 2015.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said, “You have been a trailblazer. When I think of Virginia and the history of what we’ve gone through … you’re at the top of that list.”
The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility is a $23 million, 37,000-square-foot data center which will advance Langley’s capabilities in modeling and simulation, big data and analysis. The building houses an office area for researchers to do their work, as well as powerful computers that can handle more complex computations.
Known for being a “human computer” at Langley, Johnson calculated trajectories for America’s first spaceflights. She worked at Langley starting in 1953 and retired in 1986.
When told about the news that the building would be dedicated to her, Katherine said with a laugh, “You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy.”
- Astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle stands with Johnson as she receives a standing ovation from the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
NASA/ David C. Bowman
Johnson received 4 standing ovations during the ceremony. She fondly recalled, “I didn’t do anything alone but to try to get to the root of the question – and succeeded there.” I whole-heartedly agree that she did just that and more.
Katherine is a wonderful example of perseverance, intelligence, and strength and I am so happy that she is being honored. She is proof that girls can excel in mathematics and is an inspiration to all! Way to go, Katherine!