NASA renames street for 'hidden' black women mathematicians

16 Juin, 2019, 05:03 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • The Hidden Figures Way street sign is unveiled at a dedication ceremony Wednesday at NASA headquarters in Washington

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency is "celebrating those figures that at the time were not celebrated".

That's because the street on which the building sits has been renamed Hidden Figures Way.

"A street sign is a piece of metal. but it's [also] a lot more than that", said Cruz, who sponsored a bill called the Hidden Figures Way Designation Act to rename the street. Also attending was Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of Hidden Figures, and members of the families of "human computers" Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, as well as Christine Darden, a mathematician who worked alongside them at NASA Langley.

Shetterly said the decision to ordain Hidden Figures Way honoured "the contributions of unseen individuals who were there at the beginning of the story, and whose persistence and courage have delivered us to where we are today".

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Thanks to new signage, visitors to NASA's headquarters in Washington, D.C. will be reminded of the contributions of the hidden figures who were essential to the success of early spaceflight. But Johnson and the computer pool made calculations for groundbreaking, successful space missions, including Alan Shepard's 1961 voyage - which made him the first American in space - and John Glenn's 1962 mission, which made him the first American to orbit Earth. According to NASA, Mary Jackson "very well may have been the only black female aeronautical engineer in the field" in the 1950s.

Mathematicians working at NASA in the 1950's were known as computers and African American mathematician were dubbed "coloured computers".

NASA is paying homage to three African-American female mathematicians whose efforts helped put men on the moon by renaming a block in front of its headquarters.

Shetterly said the street sign should remind people of the standard set by these women. "Because for years, and then decades, and then centuries, when little girls and little boys come to see NASA, they're going to look up and see that sign, and they're going to say 'Hidden Figures?". "And that, in turn, is going to prompt a story - a story about the unlimited human potential of all of us".

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