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

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FILE – In this Feb. 26, 2017, file photo Janelle Monae, left, Taraji P. Henson, second right and Octavia Spencer, right, introduce Katherine Johnson, seated, the inspiration for “Hidden Figures,” as they present the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Johnson, a mathematician on early space missions who was portrayed in film “Hidden Figures,” about pioneering black female aerospace workers, died Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

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

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.

FILE – In this Feb. 26, 2017, file photo Janelle Monae, left, Taraji P. Henson, second right and Octavia Spencer, right, introduce Katherine Johnson, seated, the inspiration for “Hidden Figures,” as they present the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Johnson, a mathematician on early space missions who was portrayed in film “Hidden Figures,” about pioneering black female aerospace workers, died Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

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

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.

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