Hidden Figures & Land-Grant Universities

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Katherine JohnsonThe movie and book, Hidden Figures, commemorates the triumphs and journey of 1960s astronauts Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, and others who are recognized as America’s first men in space. While these men orbit around space, hundreds of NASA workers which include engineers and “human computers” who helped to make it possible. These “human computers” were individuals who calculated the orbital trajectories for their missions. In Hidden Figures, the movie focus on three computers: Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan. Through someMary Jackson research, I found that two of the women – Johnson and Jackson both attended an 1890 land-grant university. Johnson attended West Virginia State University. Jackson attended Hampton University. Through the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, land-grant universities like Hampton and West Virginia State Universities as well as those created in 1862 deliver high-quality agricultural research, education, and extension programs for those not only interested in agriculture without excluding other scientific and classical studies.

While today, human computers no longer exist. Engineers and scientists are still using skills created in the 1960s to solve problems in computer programming and engineering. Union County 4-H provides several opportunities to help young people learn about computer science and other STEM careers through our robotics program, summer day camps, and other special interest projects/programs. 

To learn more about them, contact the local 4-H office at 704.283.3735 or 704.283.3740.