Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and PencilNASA chief Charles Bolden recalls the historic trajectory of the “human computer” who played a key role in the Apollo 11 moon landing, and as a female African-American in the 1960s, shattered stereotypes in the process.
When I was growing up, in segregated South Carolina, African-American role models in national life were few and far between. Later, when my fellow flight students and I, in training at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi, clustered around a small television watching the Apollo 11 moon landing, little did I know that one of the key figures responsible for its success was an unassuming black woman from West Virginia: Katherine Johnson. Hidden Figuresis both an upcoming book and an upcoming movie about her incredible life, and, as the title suggests, Katherine worked behind the scenes but with incredible impact.
When Katherine began at NASA, she and her cohorts were known as “human computers,” and if you talk to her or read quotes from throughout her long career, you can see that precision, that humming mind, constantly at work. She is a human computer, indeed, but one with a quick wit, a quiet ambition, and a confidence in her talents that rose above her era and her surroundings.
“In math, you’re either right or you’re wrong,” she said. Her succinct words belie a deep curiosity about the world and dedication to her discipline, despite the prejudices of her time against both women and African-Americans. It was her duty to calculate orbital trajectories and flight times relative to the position of the moon—you know, simple things. In this day and age, when we increasingly rely on technology, it’s hard to believe that John Glenn himself tasked Katherine to double-check the results of the computer calculations before his historic orbital flight, the first by an American. The numbers of the human computer and the machine matched.
With a slide rule and a pencil, Katherine advanced the cause of human rights and the frontier of human achievement at the same time. Having graduated from high school at 14 and college at 18 at a time when African-Americans often did not go beyond the eighth grade, she used her amazing facility with geometry to calculate Alan Shepard’s flight path and took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon to orbit it, land on it, and return safely to Earth.
I was so proud of Katherine as I sat with hundreds of other guests in the East Room of the White House and watched as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama last year. Katherine’s great mind and amazing talents advanced our freedoms at the most basic level—the freedom to pursue the biggest dreams we can possibly imagine and to step into any room in the country and take a seat at the table because our expertise and excellence deserve it. Katherine, now 97, took her seat without fanfare. As far as not being equal was concerned, she said, “I didn’t have time for that. My dad taught us ‘you are as good as anybody in this town, but you’re no better.’ ” I’d posit that Katherine was better—not only at math but also at applying her talents with the precision and beauty possible only in mathematics. She achieved the perfect parabola—casting herself to the stars and believing she could chart the journey home.
Beware of this man. If you are unaware, he has been stalking, harassing, and scamming women with physical disabilities. A detailed account as well as a different picture can be found here http://instagram.com/p/xdSmRJRveK/ but I have an update with an added warning. People have been coming forward to say he’s been approaching them because they’re my friends. Also he has a history of going after MINOR CHILDREN within the disabled community, which I was unaware, but clearly makes him more dangerous than thought. Do not leave women and children alone with Sam Jennings who lives in Meridian, Mississippi. He’s quite active in the Baptist community there as well. He has a sexual fetish for women and children with physical disabilities. Two of his aliases are Sarah Pace and Sarah Jennings.
According to my Instagram, I originally posted about this 68 weeks ago. I wrote:
“Take a look at this man. He is a pathological stalker of women with physical disabilities. I refuse to conceal his identity when he was dumb enough to try and be my friend with his real profile. He has been harassing me for three months. I’ve been in contact with the police about it, including a detective. His usual manner is to create a fake profile posing as a disabled woman (pictures stolen from devotee porn sites) and attempts to befriend other disabled women. Once he gets their phone numbers, the calls start on an incessant basis. I’m not the only one who has posted on the internet about him either. Some of the common names he uses are Sarah Pace and Sarah Jennings. His actual name is Sam Jennings and he does not take no for an answer. I had to change my phone number weeks ago and he’s still trying to wiggle his way into my life. He’s been told no and to cease contact repeatedly. This man works for a church in Meridian, Mississippi. Do not leave him alone with females. His inability to take no for an answer makes him dangerous. Disabled women beware in particular. Spread this around.”
I went 68 weeks without hearing from this guy. Technically, I haven’t heard from him personally but his victims are still reaching out to me. He’s still stalking disabled girls and women, and his behavior is escalating. I was contacted today by a woman who wrote:
“He has recently contacted my sister and we found this information after doing research. My husband is a detective for our local police department and was able to get more information that we could ourselves. My sister is paralyzed and this is very scary! He kept calling and calling and finally I talked to him and he wanted to meet up with her and do ‘an interview’ because he was in school for broadcasting and needing to interview so many people so he could graduate! He wanted to take her to dinner and no one else could be with him because it was ‘personal’ and only he and her were going to be able to be part of the interview that would take 5 to 6 minutes! CRAZY! He kept saying ‘I’m not a creep! I promise I’m not a creep! Don’t worry, I’m not a crazy creepy person! I’m just needing to interview you and I swear to you I’m not a creep!’ He kept saying things of this nature and that instantly threw a red flag for us! If he contacts her again, which I hope he doesn’t, we will be pressing charges!”
That’s why I’m posting information again. Please spread this around. Even after I had police go to his house and warn him to stop this behavior (there are a lot of other stories besides mine within the disabled community), he not only continues to stalk disabled girls and women but now he’s trying to isolate them in person. This man is dangerous.
Remember: his name is Sam Jennings from Meridian, Mississippi. He often poses as disabled females online to gain the trust of other disabled females, and then the real stalking begins once he gets their personal information.
“At one side of the parlors, with candelabra at the head and foot stands the magnificent silver-trimmed metallic casket. Hermetically sealed within, in all the barbaric splendor of a medieval Queen lays Mrs. Callie (Kelly) Mitchell, Queen of the Gypsies of America. Her swarthy face with its high cheekbones is typical of Romany tribes and the head, the upper portion of which is covered with bright silken drapery pinned at the back with pins, rests upon a cushion of filmy silk and satin. The hair is braided Gypsy fashion and the dark tresses shine. The body is attired in a Royal robe of Gypsy Green and other bright colors contrasting vividly with the somber hues usual under such circumstances. Two necklaces are around the neck, one of shells, an heirloom that was descended through generations. The lower part of the body is draped with “Sacred Linen” treasured by Gypsy bands for the use only when death overtakes one of their numbers. When the children arrive, each will put a memento of some kind in the casket and it will devolve upon the youngest child to place her mother’s earrings in the ear.”