Date of Birth: September 20, 1910. Hometown: Kansas City, MO. Education: B.A., Mathematics, Wilberforce University, 1929. Hired by NACA: December 1943. Retired from NASA: 1971. Date of Death: November 10, 2008. Actress Playing Role in Hidden Figures: Octavia Spencer. In an era when NASA is led by an African American man (Administrator Charles Bolden) and a woman (Deputy Administrator Dava Newman), and when recent NASA Center Directors come from a variety of backgrounds, it's easy to overlook ...
Nov 30, 1990 · Ross, Dorothy Rabin was born on August 13, 1936 in Milwaukee. Education Bachelor, Smith College, 1958; Master of Arts, Columbia University, 1959; Doctor of Philosophy, Columbia University, 1965.
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Birthplace: Fearn, Ross & Cromarty, Scotland (United Kingdom) Death: January 28, 1323 (84) Lewis, Scotland. Immediate Family: Daughter of William I, 2nd Earl of Ross and Jean Comyn. Wife of Torquil Og MacLeod of Lewis. Mother of Finguala MacKenzie and III Norman Macleod of Lewis.
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- January 28, 1323 (84)Lewis, Scotland
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- Early Life
- from Teacher to Computer
- Supervisor and Innovator
- Later Life and Legacy
Dorothy Vaughan was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the daughter of Leonard and Annie Johnson. The Johnson family soon moved to Morgantown, West Virginia, where they stayed throughout Dorothy’s childhood. She quickly proved to be a talented student, graduating early from high school at the age of 15 as her graduating class’ valedictorian. At Wilberforce University, a historically Black college in Ohio, Vaughan studied mathematics. Her tuition was covered by a full-ride scholarship from the West Virginia Conference of the A.M.E. Sunday School Convention. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 1929, only 19 years old, cum laude. Three years later, she married Howard Vaughan, and the couple moved to Virginia, where they initially lived with Howard’s wealthy and well-respected family.
Although Vaughan was encouraged by her professors at Wilberforce to go to graduate school at Howard University, she declined, instead taking a job at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia, so that she could help support her family during the Great Depression. During this time, she and her husband Howard had six children: two daughters and four sons. Her position and education placed her as an admired leader in her community. Dorothy Vaughan taught high school for 14 years during the era of racially segregated education. In 1943, during World War II, she took a job at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, the predecessor to NASA) as a computer. NACA and the rest of the federal agencies had technically desegregated in 1941 by executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Vaughan was assigned to the West Area Computing group at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Despite women of color being recruited actively, they were still segregated...
In 1949, Dorothy Vaughan was assigned to supervise the West Area Computers, but not in an official supervisory role. Instead, she was given the role as acting head of the group (after their previous supervisor, a white woman, died). This meant the job didn’t come with the expected title and pay bump. It took several years and advocating for herself before she was finally given the role of supervisor in an official capacity and the benefits that came with it. Vaughan did not just advocate for herself, but also worked hard to advocate for more opportunities for women. Her intention was not just to help her West Computing colleagues, but women across the organization, including white women. Eventually, her expertise came to be highly valued by the engineers at NASA, who relied heavily on her recommendations to match projects with the computers whose skills aligned best. In 1958, NACA became NASA and segregated facilities were completely and finally abolished. Vaughan worked in the Nume...
Dorothy Vaughan worked at Langley for 28 years while raising six children (one of whom followed in her footsteps and worked at NASA’s Langley facility). In 1971, Vaughan finally retired at the age of 71. She continued to be active in her community and her church throughout retirement, but lived a fairly quiet life. Vaughan died on November 10, 2008 at the age of 98, less than a week after the election of America’s first Black president, Barack Obama. Vaughan’s story came to public attention in 2016, when Margot Lee Shetterly published her nonfiction book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race." The book was made into a popular feature film, "Hidden Figures," which was nominated for Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards and won the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Award for best ensemble (the guild’s equivalent of a best picture award). Vaughan is one of the three main characters in the film, along with colleagues Katherine...Shetterly, Margot Lee. Dorothy Vaughan Biography. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.Shetterly, Margot Lee. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race. William Morrow & Company, 2016.
- Assistant Editor
- Who Was Dorothy Johnson Vaughan?
- Early Life
- Career in Mathematics
- Working Under Segregated Conditions
- Work with NASA and The Space Program
- Later Life
Dorothy Johnson Vaughan was an African American mathematics teacher who became one of the leading mathematical engineers in early days of the aerospace industry. After the U.S. defense industry desegregated, Vaughan worked with leading computer operators and engineers, becoming an expert in the FORTRAN programming coding language at NASA. She worked on the SCOUT Launch Vehicle Program that shot satellites into space. Vaughan and other female African American mathematicians are the subject of a 2016 film Hidden Figures.
Dorothy Johnson was born in Kansas City, Missouri on September 20, 1910. At age seven, her parents, Leonard and Anne Johnson, moved the family to Morgantown, West Virginia. She graduated from Beechurst High School in 1925, and four years later, received a Bachelor of Science degree from Wilberforce University in Ohio. In 1932, she married Howard Vaughan.
For the next eleven years, Vaughan divided her time between being a homemaker and a mathematics teacher at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. In 1943, the family moved to Newport News, Virginia, and Vaughan was employed as a mathematician at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the predecessor agency to NASA) in what she thought would be a temporary job. A beneficiary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802, Vaughan was among the first group of African Americans to be hired as mathematicians and scientists. The executive order prohibited discrimination based on race, religion and ethnicity in the defense industry.
However, even with the executive order, state and local laws required "colored" mathematicians to work separately from their white female counterparts. Vaughan was assigned to the segregated “West Area Computing” unit, where she was required to use separate dining and restroom facilities. At NACA, she was responsible for calculating mathematical computations for engineers conducting aeronautical experiments in wind tunnels on the variables affecting drag and lift of aircraft. In 1949, Vaughan became the first Black supervisor at NACA when she was promoted to manager of the West Area Computers. This workgroup was composed entirely of African American female mathematicians. The title gave her rare visibility and she collaborated with other well-known computer operators on various projects. She also became a dedicated advocate for female employees who deserved promotions or raises, often supporting white women as well.
Vaughan led the West Area Computing program for a decade. Then in 1958, as NACA was transitioning into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the agency abolished the segregated working environment. Vaughan joined the new Analysis and Computation Division, becoming an expert FORTRAN programmer, and worked on the SCOUT (Solid Controlled Orbital Utility Test) Launch Vehicle Program, one of the nation's most successful and reliable launch vehicles, used for launching a 385-pound satellite into a 500-mile orbit.
Vaughan sought but never received another management position at NASA. She retired in 1971. During the final decade of her career, Vaughan worked closely with fellow NASA mathematicians Katherine G. Johnson and Mary Jackson on the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, which brought confidence back to America’s space program. Vaughan died on November 10, 2008. Her legacy and the story of the other women of West Computing lives on in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.
(Dorothy Vaughn in her twenties (left), Octavia Spencer (right); Photo credit: NASA archives) Dorothy Vaughan, one of the hidden figures in American space history that has long been swept under the rug is now out in the open and being told in the blockbuster movie, Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae as the unsung Black women who were instrumental in getting the first ...