Katherine Johnson has been dubbed, the human-computer for her work at NASA Langley Research Center doing the calculations responsible for sending countless men back and forth to space. You might think at 100 years old, Johnson would be living a low key life of retirement, but this lively hero isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
A Living Legacy
Margot Lee Shetterly’s book and film adaptation, Hidden Figures, skyrocketed Johnson and her former colleagues into the spotlight for their work at NASA. The Oscar-nominated film told the story of African American women with genius level math and science skills who conducted vital calculations for NASA during the 1950s and ‘60s.
Not only was Johnson smashing race and gender ceilings at a time of oppression, she was also making groundbreaking space travel possible without the use of computers.
Her Busy Life Today
Some might think after her accomplishments at NASA, Johnson would be taking it easy but her daily life is still incredibly full. Although Johnson has lost some hearing she still enjoys playing board games and bridge with visitors, family and her second husband of 59 years at their retirement community in Newport News. According to her daughter Joylette, because of her parents hearing loss, communication between them isn’t always possible. After 59 years, they haven’t lost their spark. The two share a nightly fist bump every day to say goodnight.
Johnson received countless letters asking her questions about her life, her work and notifying her of new buildings and classrooms being named in her honor. She is frequently asked to attend ceremonies, give interviews and visit with inspired students.
No Signs Of Slowing Down
Her daughters, 78-year-old Joylette Hylick and 74-year-old Katherine Moore, manage her schedule, help her answer letters and keep her travel engagements. When asked to see visitors or travel to ceremonies, she is still very much up to the task. West Virginia State University unveiled a statue of her likeness and awarded a scholarship in her name for her 100th birthday.
Johnson remains incredibly humble and speaks of her NASA colleagues who have since passed with great adoration and respect. Johnson says she still tries to try to learn something new every day as advised by her father. When, The Daily Press, asked of her plans for the future, Johnson replied, ”Just to live,” she says. “Just to stay living.”