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tv   NASA Research Mathematician Katherine Johnson  CSPAN  February 24, 2020 2:21pm-2:31pm EST

2:21 pm kate, thank you -- rol thank you. >> today and look at global vaccination efforts. the look of efforts to vaccinate children and some of the world's poorest countries live at 2:30 eastern time here on c-span. you can also join us live online at or listen live on the free c-span radio app. katherine johnson has died. a tweet from nasa says we are saddened by her passing. today we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers.
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>> what's the status on that computer? >> she's right behind you, mr. harris. >> does she handle analytic geometry? >> absolutely. and she speaks. >> yes, sir. i do. >> which one? >> both. geometry and speaking. >> get me the -- do you think you can find me the frame for this using the -- >> the algorithm, yes, sir. i prefer it over euclidean coordinates. >> she's had the fortune of having hollywood shine on her life. there are people, right here in west virginia, who had no idea what catherine johnson did for nasa and the united states of america. so when the movie "hidden figures" came out, it showed everyone who catherine johnson was, what she did, and how profound she was in the pages of american history. she was hired as what they called
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then "a computer." she came in and did mathematical equations for nasa. what they didn't realize, she was more than just a computer. she was a mathematical genius. that's what catherine johnson was. show less >> godspeed, john glenn. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. 0. >> in fact, john glenn said, this computer thing, not catherine, this actual computer that was built, calculated his trajectory to space and he wanted that verified by catherine johnson. here's the important part. he didn't ask the mathematicians from m.i.t. he didn't ask the mathematicians from stanford or harvard. he asked the brilliant mathematician from west virginia state university to calculate my
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trajectory, and make sure i get home safe. that says a lot about what catherine was to not only nasa, but what she meant to the individuals she worked with. they relied on her. they put their lives in her hands. so, what she meant to nasa was that we won the space race, and catherine johnson played a very signet control in that. you know -- significant role in that. you know, catherine is about dashes from a small town about two hours from west virginia state university. we had the privilege before the rest of the world fell in love with catherine johnson, to have her beautiful face on our campus at the tender age of 10. she was unable to go to high school in her hometown because of the hue of her skin, so she and her family had to pack up and travel for two hours to west virginia state university. we have then an elementary school and a high school that were part of the university at the time. so a
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young catherine johnson with all of her mathematical skills and intelligence came here, and graduated at the age of 15, and then entered what was then west virginia state college, now west virginia state university, and left us in 1937 at the age of 18, and she never looked back. so, in 1937 when catherine graduated from west virginia state university, she went into the field of teaching. she was inspired here and understood the very significance of teaching and paying it forward. so she went into teaching, for about 13 years. catherine entered nasa at a time where african-americans and america overall was still living in dual world. we had a white america and an african-american america, and catherine had to very delicately walk in both worlds. and, she went to work every day and gave nasa and the astronauts, none of whom looked like her, 100%. she said, in spite of how i am treated, where i can go and eat,
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what i can do, i'm going to come here and fight to make sure i do the best job possible for my country and for the space race. so while at nassa, there -- nasa, there were three significant space ventures catherine played a very sick of the control in. -- significant role in. for the first individual who entered into space, catherine calculated the trajectories for that mission to happen. she also played a significant role in john glenn, and john glenn said throughout his life, at the end of his life, he would not venture into
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space if catherine johnson was not checking the calculations on his spaceflight. so the actual flight with john glenn, where he orbited the earth, catherine johnson played a significant role in it. and, we know catherine played a significant role in the moon landing. so, those are three pivotal moments that changed space travel and how we in the united states of america see nasa today. i had the pleasure, on catherine's 99th birthday, to be with her at the green briar. at 99, i was in awe at how sharp she still is. we laughed. we joked. we had a great time. she is as radiant and beautiful at 99 as she was when she walked out of campus in the early 1930's. so when i met het at that 99th birthday, i started asking myself. as people learn more about catherine johnson, and the university she loved so dearly, and we love her equally, we needed to do
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something to recognize her and make sure that history never forgets how profound she was in helping nasa win the space race. so i got a team of my staff and students together, and we started brainstorming. i said, listen, we are going to honor catherine johnson by placing a statue right here on our campus, her alma mater. from the time i brought the team together and we started planning, we had about eight or nine months. the goal was to do it on her 100th birthday. [applause] >> dr. catherine coleman johnson, you are no longer and never again "hidden." [applause] >> and so, on august 25, 2018, we had catherine johnson and about 1000 fans and supporters right here on our campus.
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>> 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 -- [cheers and applause] in >> and on that day, it was beautiful. she was able to be with us. she loved the statue. her family was in awe. it was a crystallizing moment that catherine johnson, regardless of him what she does from here on out, she will be a part of west virginia state university forever. and so, today her story is inspiring people all around the world. in fact, it is said that catherine likes to count everything. when she was younger, she counted rocks in the yard, counted the steps to church, counted everything she could get her mind around and her hands on. and when we dedicated the statue to her in 2018, on her 100th birthday, i told catherine, i knew something she could not count, and that
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was the number of people she's inspired. so that is the catherine johnson story, and it is my hope that young men and women of all races and economic backdrops will take more time to learn about this incredible american icon. our cities tour staff recently traveled to charleston, west virginia, to learn about its


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