Mary W. Jackson never accepted the status quo.
This week we announced our headquarters building in Washington will be named after Jackson, who overcame barriers to become our first Black female engineer.
Jackson started her career in 1951 at what is now our Langley Research Center in Virginia as a human computer – a mathematician who performed hand calculations for space missions.
After two years working in the West Area Computing Unit, she received an offer to work in Langley’s Supersonic Pressure Tunnel, where she conducted extensive aeronautics research while taking additional training to be promoted from a mathematician to an engineer. And in 1958, Jackson became our first Black female engineer. During her engineering career, she authored or co-authored a dozen research papers.
In 1979, Jackson made a final career change, leaving engineering for Langley’s Federal Women’s Program. She would dedicate the rest of her career to the hiring and promotion of the next generation of women mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019 and was portrayed by Janelle Monae in the Oscar-winning film “Hidden Figures.”
Our Administrator Jim Bridenstine noted, “We know there are many other people of color and diverse backgrounds who have contributed to our success, which is why we’re continuing the conversations started about a year ago with the agency’s Unity Campaign. NASA is dedicated to advancing diversity, and we will continue to take steps to do so.”
Learn About Mary W. Jackson
- NASA also photo