While working as a maths teacher in 1952, she was told about a job opening that would change her life, and the course of the Space Race between America and the Soviet Union. NASA were hiring African-American mathematicians to manually perform complex mathematical calculations for their engineers. In 1953, she began work with the Flight Research Division.
Throughout her 33 years at NASA, she created the trajectory analysis for the first American in space, checked the calculations for the first American to orbit the earth and contributed to the team that put the first man on the moon. She also worked on early plans to send a rocket to Mars. She is a great woman behind great events.
In 2016, her life and work was celebrated in the book Hidden Figures by Mary Lee Shetterley, and film of the same name. Throughout her career, Katherine wrote 26 papers and co-authored the first textbook on space. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal, the highest honour for an American citizen, by Barack Obama. She is 100-years-old.
Wendy Hall: Southampton’s first female Professor of Engineering
Not many people teach their first maths lesson aged six. Dame Wendy Hall did. “I was always good at maths. Maths came to me rather than me coming to maths,” she says. “When I was at school, I wanted to be a doctor, but my headmistress wouldn’t let me take the A-levels for that. She told me that medicine was not a career for women. That was in 1969. It was a very different world.”
Instead, her headmistress encouraged her to read maths. She did her undergraduate and doctorate at the University of Southampton, where she later became its first female Professor of Engineering. She is now Professor of Computer Science.