Groundbreaking NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies at 101

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(WDTV/Gray News) - Former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson died Monday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced on Twitter. She was 101.

Katherine Johnson | NASA

"Our @NASA family is sad to learn the news that Katherine Johnson passed away this morning at 101 years old," Bridenstine wrote on Twitter. "She was an American hero and her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten."

Johnson was born in White Sulpher Springs, W. Va. She was handpicked to be one of the first black students to attend graduate school at West Virginia University.

Johnson went on to lead a career at NASA where she made history. She made on-the-fly calculations for the Apollo 11 moon landing 50 years ago as 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.

Johnson was portrayed in the movie "Hidden Figures."

In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Johnson with America's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The NASA Independent Verification and Validation Facility was renamed after Johnson in July.

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