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"Hidden Figures" Mathematician Katherine Johnson at 100: A Life Told in Children's Books

The Trailblazing Mathematician Celebrated Her 100th Birthday This Week


When President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Katherine Johnson in 2015, few people had even heard her name — but today, thanks to the smash success of the book Hidden Figures and its movie adaptation, this groundbreaking mathematician has become an inspiration for girls everywhere!

Johnson was one of NASA's "human computers," a group of female mathematicians who calculated critical equations for rocket design, launch trajectories, and more. During her 35-year career at NASA, during which she was forced to overcome both gender and racial barriers, Johnson's skills in celestial navigation were renowned. She calculated — by hand — the flight trajectories for a number of historic missions, including the Alan Shepard's space voyage aboard Freedom 7 in 1961 and the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon in 1969. Now, this inspiring woman's contributions to the history of crewed space flight is finally being celebrated by the nation and the world.

In honor of Katherine Johnson's 100th birthday, we've showcased a variety of books for all ages about the life and work of this trailblazing mathematician. These books capture Johnson's incredible determination, intelligence, and drive, and provide a stellar example for the next generation of pioneers!

Celebrating Katherine Johnson in Children's Books

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13
New!

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13
New!

Written by: Helaine Becker
Illustrated by: Dow Phumiruk
Recommended Age: 5 - 9

Katherine Johnson loved to count, and despite the prejudices against both women and African Americans, she was determined to find a way to make her love of math into a career. As one of NASA's "human computers," Johnson hand calculated elaborate equations... including the trajectories that helped launch the Apollo 13 mission to the moon. And when disaster befell the Apollo 13 mission, it was Johnson's flight-path calculations that brought the astronauts safely home. This inspiring biography of the mathematician catapulted to fame by Hidden Figures celebrates a love of math and encourages kids to follow their passions.

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

Recommended Age: 5 - 9

When Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden joined NASA, they were hired as "human computers" — their mathematical genius was put to use calculating launch trajectories for America's first trips to space. They overcame both racism and sexism, carved out careers in science, and participated in some of NASA's greatest triumphs. Fans of the Hidden Figures movie will be excited to share this picture book adaptation of the story of these groundbreaking women mathematicians with younger readers!

You Should Meet: Katherine Johnson

You Should Meet: Katherine Johnson

Written by: Thea Feldman
Illustrated by: Alyssa Petersen
Recommended Age: 6 - 8

She's been called one of the greatest American minds of all time, and when NASA first started using computers to calculate launch trajectories, they only trusted them after she double-checked the math! Katherine Johnson broke both gender and racial boundaries when she started working for NASA in the 1950s as a human computer, performing the complex calculations necessary to launch rockets, satellites, and eventually, the Apollo 11 moon mission. New chapter book readers who are fans of the hit movie Hidden Figures will be excited to read their very own book about Johnson.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Written by: Vashti Harrison
Illustrated by: Vashti Harrison
Recommended Age: 6 - 10

Throughout American history, there were bold, daring black women who broke all expectations and boundaries to make the world a better place! In this engaging picture book, author/illustrator Vashti Harrison introduces young readers to forty trailblazing women, including abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. This inspiring book, filled with stunning full-page illustrations of each of the featured women, reminds young readers that every great leader began as a little leader, taking their first steps towards something big.

Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space
New!

Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space
New!

Written by: Libby Jackson
Recommended Age: 7 - 12

This gorgeously illustrated collected biography honors inspirational women who helped fuel some of the greatest achievements in space exploration from the nineteenth century to today! Galaxy Girls pays tribute to fifty pioneering women past and present, from mathematicians to engineers to test pilots to astronauts, including Katherine Johnson. Each capsule biography is paired with a striking full-page original artwork from the students of the London College of Communication. Perfect for inspiring the space leaders of tomorrow, this stunning book gives this band of heroic sisters and their remarkable and often little known scientific achievements long overdue recognition.

Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race

Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race

Written by: Rebecca Rissman
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

In the early days of the space program, segregation was still the law, and most people thought that girls didn't belong in science. But at NASA, female African-American mathematicians challenged both gender and racial barriers: these "human computers" calculated the launch trajectories for America's rockets and satellites, and eventually, even for the first crewed space flights. In this narrative nonfiction book, young readers learn about these dedicated women, and then get a look at how women working at NASA today feel about their place in the space agency.

Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition

Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition

Written by: Margot Lee Shetterly
Recommended Age: 8 - 13

Before people could orbit the Earth or fly to the moon, there was a group of "human computers": dedicated female mathematician who used pencil and slide rule to calculate how to launch rockets. Four African-American women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, were critical to the story of space flight — and yet their story was largely untold. In this young readers edition of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, tweens will learn how these women, so little appreciated in their time, changed both NASA and America for the better.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

Written by: Rachel Ignotofsky
Recommended Age: 9 and up

This charmingly illustrated and educational book highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection profiles well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more!

Hidden Figures

The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Hidden Figures

The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Written by: Margot Lee Shetterly
Recommended Age: Adults

When America set its sights on the moon, launch calculations had to be done by pencils and slide rules in the hands of "human computers" — and among them was a group of incredibly gifted African-American women, without whom space travel would have stayed a dream. This book follows the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, whose contributions have until recently been largely neglected in the history books but whose work not only helped humankind reach the moon, but also changed the history of black woman in science. This inspiring book, which kicked off a new cultural appreciation for these groundbreaking women, is a must-read title for anyone interested in women's history.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

Recommended Age: 9 and up

This blockbuster film adaptation of the story of NASA's "computers" highlights the social changes going on during the 1950s and 60s, while celebrating the daring women who made those changes happen! Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson were black women mathematicians hired to perform the endless calculations necessary for NASA's research and launches. They crossed gender and racial lines — and in many cases, pushed back against exclusionary policies — in order to help America reach outer space... and even still, few people knew their names until a couple of years ago. This inspiring story, based on the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, brings Vaughan, Jackson, and Johnson's story to vivid life on screen.

Amazon.co.uk

Women in Science - Katherine Johnson Poster

Women in Science - Katherine Johnson Poster

Manufacturer: Rachel Ignotofsky
Recommended Age: All Ages

From Rachel Ignotofsky, the author/illustrator behind the exquisite book Women in Science, comes this high-quality print featuring Katherine Johnson! This poster pays tribute to Johnson's work as a physicist and NASA mathematician, and includes intriguing facts about this trailblazing scientist. This poster is available in 8X10 and 11X14 inch sizes and is printed with archival quality inks.

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