Speed Reads

R.I.P.

Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician portrayed in Hidden Figures, dies at 101

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose story was brought to life in the film Hidden Figures, has died at 101.

NASA confirmed Johnson's death on Monday morning, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine remembering her as "an American hero" whose "pioneering legacy will never be forgotten."

"At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her," Bridenstine also said.

While working at NASA's Flight Research Division, Johnson calculated trajectories that made the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing possible, not to mention the flights of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, The New York Times reports. She was the Flight Research Division's first woman to receive credit as the author of a research report, NASA says.

The 2016 movie Hidden Figures, in which Johnson was played by Taraji P. Henson, helped shed light on her career. Former President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, saying at the time, "In her 33 years at NASA, Katherine was a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science and reach for the stars."