University Of Johannesburg Honours NASA Pioneer Katherine Johnson

By Kamva Somdyala

Katherine Johnson, known for her pioneering work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) received an honorary degree from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Monday evening at the age of 100.

Johnson’s daughters, Katherine Goble Moore and Joylette Gobble Hylick accepted the degree on behalf of their mother.

It was Johnson’s mathematics talent and computer skills that led the United States to win the space race. Her work contributed to efforts to put the first men into space and eventually the moon.


“Johnson paved the way for young women, in particular black women, to work and excel in STEM fields and she did this in a time when segregation was the norm, and the deliberate exclusion of black people from intellectual pursuits the order of the day,” faculty of science dean, Professor Debra Meyer, said.

During her more than three-decade long career at NASA, she earned a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations, combining her mathematics talent with computer skills to solve problems of an astro-physics nature.

Johnson was also one of the inspirations behind the novel and film Hidden Figures . Meyer hailed her as having “demonstrated distinguished achievement in line with the university’s vision, mission and values”.

Johnson co-authored 26 scientific papers, has been the recipient of NASA’s Lunar Spacecraft and Operations Group Achievement Award and NASA’s Apollo Group Achievement Award.

On November 24, 2015, she received the United States’ highest civilian award – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – from former president Barack Obama.

In 2018, toy company Mattel released the Katherine Johnson Barbie doll.

Source: News 24

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