Katherine Coleman Johnson was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in 1918. At the age of 18, she received her degree in mathematics and French from West Virginia State College, graduating summa cum laude. Johnson briefly attended graduate school in mathematics at West Virginia State University before returning to teaching. Then in 1953 she went to work as a "computer" for the agency that would soon become known as NASA, remaining there until her retirement as an aerospace technologist in 1986. She made fundamental contributions to the United States space program, including celestial navigation calculations for the missions of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, the Apollo 11 flight to the moon, and the Apollo 13 lunar flight that returned safely home after having to be aborted. In 2015 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, and in 2016 NASA dedicated the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. In 2018, her alma mater, West Virginia State University, honored Katherine Johnson with a bronze statue and a scholarship in her name for students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Hidden Figures, a movie about Katherine Johnson and her African-American colleagues at NASA, was released in late 2016.
More information about Katherine Johnson and her contributions at NASA can be found in the references below.