Engineer. The story of her career at NASA, as well as that of two of her colleagues, Katherine G. Johnson and Dorothy Johnson Vaughn and their contributions to Project Mercury and Apollo 11, were depicted in the movie "Hidden Figures." Born and raised in Hampton, VA, she earned bachelor's degrees in Math and Physical Sciences at Hampton Institute in 1942. In 1951, she joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which later became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She began her career as a research mathematician, or a "human computer," at Langley Research Center's segrated West Computing Section in her hometown, working under Vaughn. After two years in the computing pool, she went to work under engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki in a 4 by 4 wind tunnel called the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel, a 60,000 horsepower wind tunnel used to study the force of wind on a model at twice the speed of sound. Czarnecki encouraged her to enter a training program so she could be promoted from mathematician to an engineer. Courses were managed by the University of Virginia, but taken at Hampton High School, which were for whites only. Jackson successfully petitioned the City of Hampton to take the classes. After completing the courses, Jackson was promoted to aerospace engineer in 1958, becoming the first black female engineer at NASA. She specialized in working with wind tunnels and analyzed data on aircraft flight experiments. Her goal to understand how airflow affected aircrafts. She worked in that position until 1978, deciding to take a step down from engineering because she was frustrated over her inability to break into management-level positions. Jackson took a position at Langley as the Federal Women's Program Manager in the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, where she worked to influence the hiring and promotion of women working in NASA's engineering, science and mathematics fields. She retired in 1985. In her 34-year career, Jackson authored or co-authored 12 research papers and received many honors, including the Apollo Group Achievement Award, and was named Langley's Volunteer of the Year in 1976. Jackson died in 2005 at the age of 83.
Bio by: Tracy Rademacher