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Black History Month Heroes to Celebrate

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson is an extraordinary astrophysicist, scientist and mathematician whose work put the first Americans in space, on the Moon, and saved space shuttles from danger.

She loved learning anything. As a young child, she often followed her older brother to school. She read every book she could find, no matter the subject.

She started high school at age 10 and college at age 15! Her professors were so impressed by her dedication to learning that they created a new math course in analytic geometry, just for her.

In 1953, she worked at the Langley Research Center, solving complex mathematical equations.

The first American to orbit the Moon, John Glenn, specifically requested Katherine Johnson’s verification of the flight calculations. He told fellow co-workers: “Get me the girl.” He refused to fly unless Johnson said it was okay.

Johnson helped put the first person on the Moon by calculating vectors and gravity physics. Championing space science, civil rights, and gender equality, Katherine Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

Claudette Colvin

On March 2, 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, a 15-year old girl showed the same strength and resolve on her way home from school.

Claudette Colvin was riding a city bus with her three friends. During a history class at school, Claudette was inspired by stories of Harriet Tubman, who rescued 300 black slaves, and Sojourner Truth, who campaigned for women’s rights.

The bus driver asked Claudette to move to the back

of the bus because a white woman wanted to sit in their seat. Claudette did not move. The bus driver pleaded. Claudette stayed put. She said it was like the hands of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth held her shoulders to stay bravely in that seat.

She told the bus driver that she paid for a ticket and had a right to sit.

The police arrested her but she was soon released. Even Martin Luther King Jr. came to meet her. At only 15 years of age, Miss Colvin inspired many people to fight against racism.

George Carruthers

George worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as an engineer, astronomer, astrophysicist and inventor!

At age 12, he built his first telescope out of cardboard tubing and lenses that he ordered in the mail. He won many science competitions and fairs. He loved learning so much he completed a PhD in Aeronautical and Astronomical Engineering in 1964. Then George changed space exploration forever with his invention: The Far Ultraviolet Camera (FAC).

The FAC captures ultraviolet light and elements such as hydrogen and oxygen. It basically means that astronauts can take selfies with the universe and see what it’s made of.

The pictures taken on April 21st, 1972 with George’s invention are out of this world.

Dr. Carruthers received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from former President Barack Obama in 2012.

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