NASA has renamed its Independent Verification and Validation Facility in Fairmont West Virginia to the Katherine Johnson IV&V Facility in honor of the mathematician depicted in the book and film, Hidden Figures.
“I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.”
Jill Upson, executive director of the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, spearheaded the process in February 2017. The honor is in recognition of Johnson’s revolutionary mathematic calculations that were crucial to the U.S. space race. Upson also praised West Virginia Legislature’s decision to name Aug. 26 as “Katherine Johnson Day.”
“When I got the idea to honor Katherine Johnson in January of 2017, after seeing the movie ‘Hidden Figures,’ I was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming excitement that I was met with from people all throughout the state,” Upson said. “Not only was helping to create Katherine Johnson Day a great accomplishment on behalf of this brilliant West Virginian but renaming the NASA IV & V facility for her elevates her achievements in math and science to a national level. Dr. Johnson literally changed the world and she is worthy of this high honor.”
Johnson, a West Virginia native, led a distinguished career as a mathematician that spanned more than three decades. According to a press release, she provided calculations on several Apollo missions at a time when racial segregation defined America. But Johnson and fellow African-American mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson broke through racial barriers and their story was turned into a book, “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly, which then became a 2017 film of the same name.
“It’s an honor the NASA IV&V Program’s primary facility now carries Katherine Johnson’s name,” said NASA IV&V Program Director Gregory Blaney. “It’s a way for us to recognize Katherine’s career and contributions not just during Black History Month, but every day, every year.”
Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.