Monday Morning Math: Mary Jackson

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Before we begin, the fall semester is coming to a close here at Naz (we’re right in the middle of finals) so this will be the last Monday Morning Math for…about a month.  We’ll resume on January 17, when the spring semester begins. 

Mary Winston-Jackson was born on April 9, 1921 in Hampton, Virginia. She loved science and shared her love with the Science Club at the Hampton’s King Street Community Center by assisting in the building of and experiments with a wind tunnel. She spent many years as a Girl Scout Leader and tutor for high school and college students.  After graduating from the Hampton Institute in 1942 with a dual degree in Math and Physical Sciences, she worked in several different careers before taking a job at NASA as part of the West Area Computing unit under the supervision of Dorothy Vaughn in 1951. 

After two years as a computer, Mary Jackson was offered a position in 1953 working for NASA engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki. After seeing her potential, Czarnecki suggested that Mary become an engineer and as such Mary had to seek special permission to enter the night program at a segregated school to attend graduate level classes. She completed the courses and she was promoted to become NASA’s first female engineer in 1958.

She retired from NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1985 and died on February 11, 2005. While at NASA, Mary Jackson earned the most senior title in the engineering department. In 1979, she opted to take a demotion so she could work as an administrator of NASA’s Equal Opportunity Specialist field. As such, Mary Jackson worked to make changes and highlight women and minorities in the engineering field at NASA, for which she was posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in 2019. NASA renamed their headquarters in Washington, D.C. the “Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters” in February 2021.  Mary Jackson was featured in Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures and portrayed in the film based on the book by Janelle Monáe.

Sources:
https://www.nasa.gov/content/mary-w-jackson-biography
https://scientificwomen.net/women/jackson-mary-104
https://blog.sciencemuseum.org.uk/happy-birthday-mary-jackson/

Written by Tracy Lyn Lause

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