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Katherine G. Johnson, Mathematician, Papers

Collection Number: A&M 4536

Scope and Contents

Papers of Katherine G. Johnson. Includes assorted artifacts, family photographs, awards, honorary degrees, correspondence, and other material regarding the career and life of Katherine G. Johnson. The bulk of the collection is focused on material relating to the release of the 2016 film Hidden Figures while other material details Katherine Johnson's early life and her family history. Such material includes news clippings, magazine articles, and fan mail to Katherine G. Johnson.


  • Creation: 1800-2021, bulk 2016-2021

Conditions Governing Access

No special access restriction applies.

Researchers may access born digital materials by requesting to view the materials in person by appointment or remotely by contacting the West Virginia & Regional History Center reference department at

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Copyright for photographs of Katherine Johnson for Vanity Fair magazine is not owned by the West Virginia and Regional History Center. For more information, please see the Permissions and Copyright page on the West Virginia and Regional History Center website.

Biographical / Historical

Katherine Goble Johnson was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia on August 26, 1918. Born Creola Katherine Coleman to parents Joylette Roberta and Joshua McKinley Coleman, she was the youngest of four children. Excelling at mathematics from an early age, Katherine and her family moved to Institute, West Virginia in order for Katherine to attend high school on the campus of West Virginia State University (WVSU). Graduating from high school at the age of 14, Johnson immediately enrolled at WVSU to pursue higher education. At the age of 18 she graduated summa cum laude in 1937 with a double major in mathematics and French. Finding few opportunities for an African-American teenage mathematician she eventually took a job as a schoolteacher in Marion, Virginia.

After marrying her first husband, James Goble, in 1939 Katherine was selected by the president of WVSU to be one of three African Americans to integrate West Virginia University (WVU) following Governor Homer Holt's decision to desegregate public graduate schools in West Virginia. Becoming the first African-American woman to be accepted into WVU's graduate program, Johnson withdrew from classes after discovering she was pregnant, settling into motherhood and her career as a teacher over the next decade.

In 1952, after hearing from a relative about jobs working with the all-black West Area computing section at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Langley laboratory under the instruction of fellow West Virginian Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine and James moved to Newport News, Virginia and Johnson began working at Langley in the summer of 1953. First assigned to a project in the Maneuver Loads Branch of the Flight Research Division, her temporary position quickly turned permanent.

Johnson helped provide some of the math for the 1958 document Notes on Space Technology. As NACA transformed in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Johnson continued to provide groundbreaking work including trajectory analysis for the 1961 Freedom 7 mission with Alan Shepard, America's first human spaceflight. Her and engineer Ted Skopinski's Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position was the first time a woman in the Flight Research Division received credit as an author of a research report.

Over the course of her career with NASA Johnson assisted with a variety of pioneering space flight missions. She verified the flight plan of John Glenn prior to his historic orbit of the Earth in 1961, in 1969 she was part of the team that calculated where and when to launch the rocket for the Apollo 11 mission that sent the first humans to the Moon, as well as working on the space shuttle program, and authoring/coauthoring 26 research reports. Katherine Johnson retired from NASA in 1986 after 33 years at the Langley facility.

Over the years Johnson received numerous awards and recognitions for her contributions to space flight. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, the highest civilian award in the United States. In 2016, NASA named the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility after her. Also in 2016, Margot Lee Shetterly published Hidden Figures: The American Dream and The Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, a book about the West Area computers, including Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. A film based on the book and having the same title was released that same year with the movie being nominated for Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards.

Katherine Johnson passed away on February 24, 2020 at the age of 101 at a retirement home in Newport News, Virginia. She was preceded in death by her second husband Jim Johnson in 2019, whom she married in 1959 after the death of her first husband in 1956. A memoir, My Remarkable Journey, co-written by Johnson and her daughters, Joylette Hylick and Katherine Moore, was published posthumously in 2021.


11.83 Linear Feet (7 record cartons, 15 in. each; 1 flat storage box, 4 in.; 1 flat storage box, 3.5 in.; 7 flat storage boxes, 3 in. each; 2 flat storage boxes, 1.5 in. each; 1 roll tube box, 4 in.; 2 unboxed items, 1.5 in. total)

4.8 Gigabytes (448 files, formats include .jpg, .gif, .png, .pdf, .mp3, .ppt, .iso, .cue, .md5)



Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL:

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Joylette G. Hylick and Katherine G. Moore, 2021-2022.

Katherine G. Johnson, Mathematician, Papers
Andrew T. Linderman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US