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Scott Congratulates Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Dr. Katherine G. Johnson of Hampton


President Barack Obama has named Dr. Katherine G. Johnson of Hampton, Virginia, a longtime employee at the NASA Langley Research Center, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is one of the Nation’s highest civilian honors, and is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or the national interests to the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The award will be formally presented at the White House on November 24, 2015.

In congratulating Dr. Johnson, 3rd District U.S. Congressman Bobby Scott said, “I am extremely pleased that President Obama has named Dr. Katherine Goble Johnson a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of nation’s highest civilian honors.

“It was apparent from early on that Dr. Johnson was driven to succeed and after overcoming adversity and institutional racism to graduate from high school at 14 and from West Virginia University at 18. Following further studies in mathematics and physics, she found a career in education.

“However, once she relocated to Hampton Roads, Dr. Johnson began a long and storied career at the NASA Langley Research Center. When hired in 1953, like almost all women at NASA, Dr. Johnson was asked to only perform technical calculations and women of African-American heritage were typically assigned to all Black ‘computer pools.’ Within weeks of her entry into the ranks of NASA, Dr. Johnson was asked to temporarily assist in the Spacecraft Dynamics Branch in the Flight Dynamics and Control Division. She never returned to her computer pool and went on to work on the Apollo Program, the Space Shuttle Program, and many other projects at NASA.

“Throughout the course of her career, Dr. Johnson has been the recipient of numerous awards prior to her being named a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, including the NASA Lunar Orbiter Achievement Award, the NASA Apollo Team Group Achievement Award, three NASA Special Achievement Awards, an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the State University of New York, honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Capitol College and Old Dominion University, and was honored by the National Technical Association as Mathematician of the Year in 1997.

“Dr. Johnson has also been listed on the Department of Energy’s ‘Black Contributor’s to Science and Energy Technology’ and in Time Life’s series entitled ‘African-Americans-Voices in Triumph and Leadership,’ and has maintained an active presence in the Hampton Roads community as President of the Lambda Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and as a Trustee and Elder at Carver Memorial Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Virginia, where she continues to be a dedicated member.

“Given the long list of accomplishments during her career, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom is an appropriate and well-earned recognition of Dr. Katherine Goble Johnson’s service to the United States, to science and human space exploration, to her community, and to the Commonwealth of Virginia. I know I speak for everyone back home in Hampton Roads when I say that we are extremely proud.”

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Dr. Johnson’s computations influenced every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle program. She is known especially for her calculations of the 1961 trajectory for Alan Shepard’s flight (first American in space), the 1962 verification of the first flight calculation made by an electronic computer for John Glenn’s orbit (first American to orbit the earth), and the 1969 Apollo 11 trajectory to the moon. In her later NASA career, Johnson worked on the Space Shuttle program and the Earth Resources Satellite and encouraged students to pursue careers in science and technology fields.

Dr. Johnson born in 1918 and is 97 years old.

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