NASA: Katherine Johnson, mathematician portrayed in ‘Hidden Figures,’ dies at 101

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HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 26: NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (C) and director Ezra Edelman (R) and producer Caroline Waterlow (L), winners of Best Documentary Feature for ‘O.J.: Made in America’ pose in the press room during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

HAMPTON, Va. (AP) – NASA says Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who worked on NASA’s early space missions and was portrayed in the film “Hidden Figures,” about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died.

In a Monday morning tweet, the space agency said it celebrates her 101 years of life and her legacy of excellence and breaking down racial and social barriers.

Johnson was one of the so-called “computers” who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits by hand during NASA’s early years.

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 24: U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson during an East Room ceremony November 24, 2015 at the White House in Washington, DC. Seventeen recipients were awarded with the nationÕs highest civilian honor. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Until 1958, Johnson and other black women worked in a racially segregated computing unit at what is now called Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Their work was the focus of the Oscar-nominated 2016 film.

In 1961, Johnson worked on the first mission to carry an American into space. In 1962, she verified computer calculations that plotted John Glenn’s earth orbits.

At age 97, Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

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