NASA will name its headquarters building in Washington, D.C., in honor of its first Black female engineer, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced on Wednesday.
What We Know:
- Mary W. Jackson, who was featured in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures, began her career at NASA “in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia”.
- Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, went on to lead programs influencing the hiring and promotion of women in NASA’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. In 2019, she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal,” NASA said in a news release.
- According to NASA, Jackson, who was from Hampton, Va., graduated from the Hampton Institute in 1942 with a dual degree in math and physical sciences. She worked as a math teacher in Calvert County, Md., then as a bookkeeper and U.S. Army secretary.
- “Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space. Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology,” said Bridenstine.
- In the news release, Bridenstine said, “NASA facilities across the country are named after people who dedicated their lives to push the frontiers of the aerospace industry. The nation is beginning to awaken to the greater need to honor the full diversity of people who helped pioneer our great nation.”
- Jackson died in 2005 at 83. Fast forward over a decade later in 2019, she and colleagues Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden were awarded the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal by President Trump.
Over the years, NASA has worked to honor the work of these hidden figures in various ways, including naming facilities, renaming streets and celebrating their legacy.