Johnson co-authored 26 scientific papers. Her social influence as a pioneer in space science and computing is demonstrated by the honors she received and her status as a role model for a life in science.

Johnson was named West Virginia State College Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 1999. President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of 17 Americans so honored on November 24, 2015. She was cited as a pioneering example of African-American women in STEM. President Obama said at the time, “Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.” NASA noted herhistorical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist.”

Two NASA facilities have been named in her honor. On May 5, 2016, a new 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) building was named the “Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility” and formally dedicated at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The facility officially opened its doors on September 22, 2017. Johnson attended this event, which also marked the 55th anniversary of astronaut Alan Shepard’s historic rocket launch and splashdown, a success Johnson helped achieve.

At the ceremony, deputy director Lewin said this about Johnson: “Millions of people around the world watched Shepard’s flight, but what they didn’t know at the time was that the calculations that got him into space and safely home were done by today’s guest of honor, Katherine Johnson”. During the event, Johnson also receivedSilver Snoopy award; often called the astronaut’s award, NASA stated it is given to thosewho have made outstanding contributions to flight safety and mission success“.

NASA renamed the Independent Verification and Validation Facility, in Fairmont, West Virginia, to the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility on February 22, 2019. Johnson was included on the BBC‘s list of 100 Women of Influence worldwide in 2016. In a 2016 video NASA stated, “Her calculations proved as critical to the success of the Apollo Moon landing program and the start of the Space Shuttle program, as they did to those first steps on the country’s journey into space.”

Science writer Maia Weinstock developed a prototype Lego for Women of NASA in 2016 and included Johnson; she declined to have her likeness printed on the final product. On May 12, 2018, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the College of William & Mary. In August 2018, West Virginia State University established a STEM scholarship in honor of Johnson and erected a life-size statue of her on campus. Mattel announcedBarbie doll in Johnson’slikeness with a NASA identity badge in 2018.

In June 2019, George Mason University named the largest building on its SciTech campus, the Katherine G. Johnson Hall.


Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash