09 Apr Happy Birthday Blog: Mary Jackson
Born: April 9, 1921
Hampton, Virginia, USA
Known For: Becoming NASA’s first black woman engineer
If you didn’t see the hit film ‘Hidden Figures’, you probably haven’t heard of Mary Jackson. The film, based on the book of the same title, told the story of 3 black women computers (people who computed data and numbers) who worked at NASA in the 1950s. The women dealt with racism and bias both because of their race and gender, as they revolutionized computing while working on the earliest space programs.
Born in Hampton, Virginia, Mary graduated with a dual degree in Math and Physical Sciences from the Hampton Institute in 1942. Mary took a number of jobs early in her career before landing a position in the computing pool at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (later NASA). Her computing skills led her to join Dorothy Vaughan and Katherine Johnson in working on Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program in the USA.
Mary continued to work at NASA, become their first black female engineer in 1958. Throughout her career she worked on a number of influential projects, and was widely published. If you haven’t seen ‘Hidden Figures,’ it’s a wonderful story of friendship, perseverance, and determination during the segregated and very racist history of the USA. For all her accomplishments, we wish her a very happy birthday!
Learn more about Mary’s work here.