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Celebrating Game Changers: Black Women who Pioneered the Tech Industry

by Lauralee Dhabhar and Kristina Drye, on Feb 4, 2021 5:06:16 PM

This February, Giant Oak would like to pay homage to 8 extraordinary women of color who changed our world.
1. Katherine Johnson (1918-2020) - Computing

Katherine JohnsonDuring her 35-year career at NASA, Katherine Johnson mastered manual calculations and pioneered the use of the computers in the process of these calculations. Her calculations enabled the success of missions including Project Mercury, the Apollo Lunar and Command Modules, the Space Shuttle Program, and even a mission to Mars. During her lifetime, Johnson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 


2. Evelyn Boyd Granville (1924-present) - Mathematics


Evelyn Boyd GranvilleEvelyn Boyd Granville was the second African-American woman to receive a Ph.D in Mathematics from an American University, graduating in 1949 from Yale. Her work including pioneering advances in computing, and her tenure at IBM led to contributions to the Apollo Program. 


3. Annie Easley (1933-2011) - Computer Science/Mathematics/Rocket Science

Annie Easley Annie Easley worked for NASA at the Lewis Research Center, developing software for the Centaur rocket, also used in the Cassini probe. Easley was one of the first African Americans to work as a computer scientist at NASA.


4. Mary Jackson (1921-2005) - Mathematics/Aerospace Engineering

Mary JacksonMary Jackson was a mathematician and aerospace engineer with NASA, where she became NASA’s first Black female engineer in 1958. After nearly four decades of engineering work, Jackson became manager of the Federal Women’s Program and the Affirmative Action Program. In 2020 the NASA Washington DC Headquarters was renamed in her honor, and in 2019 she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

5. Melba Roy Mouton (1929-1990) - Mathematics

Melba Roy MoutonMelba Roy Mouton was a mathematician at NASA who served as the Assistant Chief of Research Programs at the Trajectory and Geodynamics Division, where she directed a group of mathematicians known as “computers”. During her time at NASA, she was Head Mathematician for the Echo Satellites 1 and 2, and the Head Programmer and Program Production Section Chief at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Before her retirement she was awarded the Apollo Achievement Award and the Exceptional Performance Award.

6. Dorothy Vaughan (1910-2008) - Mathematics

Dorothy VaughanDorothy Vaughan was a computer and mathematician for NASA, where she was the first African American woman to supervise a group of staff at the center. During her tenure at NASA, the advent of computers led her to teach herself and her team the Fortran programming language, later heading the programming section of the Analysis and Computation Division at the Langley NASA base. In 2019, Vaughan was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

7. Gladys Mae West (1930 - present) - Mathematics

Gladys Mae WestGladys Mae West is an American mathematician who contributed to the mathematical modeling of the shape of the Earth and the development of the satellite geodesy models that eventually became the new GPS technology. In 2018, West was inducted into the US Air Force Hall of Fame. West holds degrees from Virginia State University, the University of Oklahoma, and Virginia Tech.


8. Kimberly Bryant (1967-present) - Engineering


Kimberly BryantKimberly Bryant is an electrical engineer in biotechnology. Bryant is the founder of Black Girls Code, a course that teaches basic programming to black girls, who are underrepresented in technology careers. Bryant has been recognized by Business Insider as one of the 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology”, and in 2013 she was named by the White House as a Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion. 


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