NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson has passed away at the age of 101. Johnson was one of the subjects of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, which chronicled the Black women mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Space Race. Their contributions made space travel possible for America.

Taraji P. Henson portrayed Johnson in the film, which also starred Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

NASA announced the news of Johnson’s death Monday morning.

A statement reads, “NASA is deeply saddened by the loss of a leader from our pioneering days, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Johnson. Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space. Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars. Her Presidential Medal of Freedom was a well-deserved recognition. At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her. We will continue building on her legacy and work tirelessly to increase opportunities for everyone who has something to contribute toward the ongoing work of raising the bar of human potential.”

The vital work of Johnson and the others was mostly unknown and unrecognized until the release of the film, which is loosely based on Margot Shetterly’s 2016 book, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race, released shortly before the film.

In 2019, Johnson and the other two women received Congressional Gold Medals for their contributions to U.S. space travel. Johnson also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2015.



A Shadow and Act Sit Down With the Cast and Crew of ‘Hidden Figures’

Photo: Getty

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