While presenting the Best Documentary Award, the three stars of Hidden Figures: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, had a short introduction that referenced the importance of documenting historic figures — like the lives of the women who their characters were based on (at least, that seems to be the only justification in pairing the three with that presentation). And when Katherine Johnson appeared at the Academy Awards, the 98-year old trailblazer received a standing ovation from the crowd.
For those who didn't get the chance to see Hidden Figures yet, Katherine Johnson is the woman portrayed by Taraji in the film, and, as the film demonstrates, she was a very important trailblazing mathematician at NASA in the 1950s and '60s. According to NASA's biography, after helping to integrate West Virginia's graduate schools, she ultimately was brought on board, and, as documented in the film, helped with John Glenn's orbital space flight. But her accomplishments go far beyond what was adapted into Hidden Figures. According to NASA, here's a few other highlights from Johnson's decades working with the Space Program:
When asked to name her greatest contribution to space exploration, Katherine Johnson talks about the calculations that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module. She also worked on the Space Shuttle and the Earth Resources Satellite, and authored or coauthored 26 research reports. She retired in 1986, after thirty-three years at Langley.
Katherine Johnson may be more recognizable now because of her role in the popular, Oscar-nominated film. But after a lifetime of scientific and mathematical achievement, as the stars of the film have said before, Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson are "Hidden Figures no more."